Disclaimer to this post.Everything below is a blatant ripoff of Drew Magary’s fine work at Deadspin in his annual Why Your Team Sucks NFL preview. He invented this format that I am stealing, in which he insults the team as much as possible before conceding that they might be okay this year. He is a professional writer and very funny. I am neither.
Your Team: Atlanta Braves
Your 2016 Record: 68-93. And that was an improvement from the previous year. They had the fifth-worst record in MLB, but the real story here is that they had a real shot at the worst record until the season’s final weeks and looked assured to have the 2nd worst record until the season’s final days. Turns out your team couldn’t even suck effectively, so they won some otherwise meaningless games to fall to the 5th pick in the draft. You may argue that baseball doesn’t have the ‘sure thing’ top picks like basketball or football (the ‘Merican kind, you ninny), but: you are wrong shut up.
As a successful fantasy baseball manager, I can tell you that higher draft picks are better. That’s just GM 101. Ask Dayton Moore, who, you may remember, has won 100% more titles than you in the last two decades. (Or is that infinitely more? I’m not great at math.)
Your Manager: Brian Snitker.
The one talent Snitker has proven to have thus far is not being Fredi Gonzalez. Granted, that checks off item #1 on every team’s managerial interview process, but it still really only means a person can be trusted alone in a room with a spoon and gallon of paint.
For years the sabermetrically inclined internet folks (NEEEEERRRRDDDDSSSS!!!!!) had preached to us that managers and their in-game decisions really don’t have much effect on game outcomes or team records. Then Fredi slapped that theory upside the head with a 2×4. Go back and watch his befuddled stupor during the 2012 Wild Card Game. Remember in horror all the pointless bunts or failures to properly strategize a double-switch.
And remember the second-biggest story of the 2016 postseason? The way the top managers bucked 100 years of stupid tradition and quit being idiots about bringing their Proven Closers™ in before the 9th. In one month,Terry Francona and Joe Madden rode with their best arms in the highest leverage at-bats. Somewhere, Fredi was watching the television with that baffled look on his face, the one he got every time he refused to argue a blown call, holding his iPhone upside down while asking Siri if the rules actually allowed you to bring in their closer that early.
Your Offense: Good googly moogly, look at that outfield. If you could somehow combine their best parts — Matt Kemp‘s remaining power with Nick Markakis‘ contact skills and Inciarte’s defense — you’d have Marcell Ozuna! And you’d only need two more outfielders who didn’t suck.
Speaking of Kemp, how has he silenced any of his critics at all? Why are there people who still believe in him? Is it the dingers? Were you in line for the Turner Field Waffle House during every defensive inning the Braves played in 2016? Look: don’t buy into that baloney about him showing up to camp in much better shape. Shedding the extra lard won’t bring his bat speed back or teach him how to catch a fly ball more than five feet away from him, no matter how sharp he looks in his uniform.
Markakis is so boring and useless I can’t even fill a paragraph
The optimism about this season’s outfield corners rivals the hilarity of spring 2005, when they trotted out Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi.
It might not have been so bad if the washed-up list stopped there, but the Braves decided to go Full Bowden and acquire Brandon Phillips. I would be more excited to watch 2/3 of Wilson Phillips play 2nd base all summer. Hold On was the jam, y’all!
Your Pitching: The second-greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world the Braves excel at developing pitching. Since the start of the millennium, pitchers developed in the Braves’ farm system have given them a grand total of ten seasons with a WAR of 3.0 or better. Two of them belong to Kimbrel. So that’s basically eight whole seasons of second starter material in 17 years, and one of them was by Tom Glavine, the pride of the 1984 draft class. In that same time period, Adam Wainwright and Jason Schmidt combined for 12 such seasons. CC Sabathia had ten of them all by himself. The myth of the Braves’ superior pitching development is built on Maddux (a free agent acquisition), Smoltz (who spent 16 whole innings in the Braves farm system), Glavine (who was drafted 33 years ago), Leo Mazzone’s reputation, and Bill Shanks’ screeching homerism.
Better get used to it, though, since the new brain trust is doubling down, spending most of their precious draft picks and tradable assets to acquire the single most risky and uncertain commodity in professional sports — pitching prospects. TÏNSTAAPP isn’t an end table from IKEA. It’s an adage that successful teams like the Cubs and Red Sox have taken to heart, choosing instead to build enduring success by stocking the farm with hitters and adding proven pitching when they need it through trade and free agency. Meanwhile, the Braves are picking up scratch-off lotto tickets like a gambler who thinks he’s got a system, and besides, man, he’s due. You’d think after the 9,834 (approximately) torn UCLs Braves’ pitchers have suffered they might think: hey, maybe we aren’t actually better than the other 29 clubs at this?
What’s New That Sucks: The ballpark! Good Lord, that ballpark. They haven’t played a single game there yet and I already hate it more than Bryce Harper. Do I really need to itemize the problems there? Despite the widely-growing realization that taxpayer-funded stadiums are a rip-off, the powers that be still pulled this one off. Everything about the site, design and surrounding infrastructure of the ballpark complex looks like I gave my two-year-old a fifth of Elijah Craig and a Dell 486 with a bootleg copy of SimCity. Atlanta has reached full Atlanta at this point, combining a crappy shopping mall loosely disguised as a ballpark, the famous worst-in-America freeway traffic, a tortuous parking situation that would make Ramsey Bolton blush, and, of course, the utterly infuriating decision not to extend public transport to the stadium. But hey, other than that, it’s just a three-hour rush hour drive to see a game, and as long as you know you won’t be able to get home before midnight, why not enjoy your surroundings in beautiful Cobb County?
What Has Always Sucked: I’m just going to bullet-point this one because Lord help me I just don’t have the strength.
Braves in Game 1 of a playoff series. Did you realize they are 0-7 in Game 1 of the playoffs since the 2002 NLDS? That is horrendous. But hey, it could have something to do with half of those games being started by Russ Ortiz, Derek Lowe, and Jaret Wright. I thought Atlanta success was built on pitching?
The playoff exploits of all other Atlanta sports teams, including Georgia football
What Might Not Suck: The team blew chunks the last two years. And those came on the heels of almost a decade of the team kind of faking success — teams with obvious flaws occasionally making the playoffs only to be steamrolled by real contenders. What this means is that the fanbase has hit the bottom hard enough that the slow climb back up the Bane-hole might be entertaining. The rebuilding of the farm system is universally applauded. The first wave of new talent will be on display this year with Lt. Dans penciled in on opening day and his hopeful partner in crime up the middle expected to debut in Waffle House Park sometime in late summer.
Eventually one of these pitching prospects has to be worth a crap in the majors, which will be fun. At the very least the front office seems to have finally caught up with us more cynical fans in our weaning patience with the likes of Foltynewitzhsdjy, Aaron Blair and Matt Wisler. If those guys don’t start getting batters out soon, they could see themselves out the door. Then they probably get picked up off waivers by the Cardinals and turned into 200-game winners.
After two years of not paying for the MLB.tv package I am finally temped to renew my subscription just to watch at least three months of Dickey knuckleballs and Bartolo at-bats two days a week. That could be fun. Or those two show their age and end up on the DL by the Derby.