Archive for April, 2016

152: One Month Down, Five to Go

Gil

Gil In Mechanicsville

Well, the first month of the 2016 season is behind us and in this year of rebuilding, the Braves have firmly established themselves in their cellar. They say every team has to rebuild at some point, the real trick is to not make it a generational thing like the Pirates did from 1992 to 2014. Everyone knew the Braves would be bad, nobody thought they would be this bad. Of course, the Braves have had a brutal schedule. Other than the Marlins, every team faced so far figured to be in the play-off this year.

EPSON MFP image

Most thought the Braves would fight it out with the Phillies to stay out of the cellar but the Phillies have done better than expected but they have not had as tough a schedule either. That said, they did sweep the Nationals in Washington last week. So far, the Nationals have been the class of the division. The Mets have stumbled a bit out of the gate but they are currently only 1/2 game behind the Nats.

AybarErick

Aybar

The Braves have endured two horrendous losing streaks. The inability to get timely hits coupled with a bullpen that is leakier than the Titanic post iceberg collision. Perhaps most surprising has been a very porous defense. They say every trade should be evaluated long term. That said, Eric Aybar has not made people forget Andrelton Simmons. Until the promising pitchers included in the deal show up, this deal has all the makings of being Len Barkerish on the bad trade scale.

So, what to look forward to? The Braves will begin to rotate some of their promising young pitchers into the rotation. Will that help? Maybe but until they actually find some pitchers who have the ability to hold leads after the sixth inning, they will continue to break the hearts of Atlanta fans everywhere. This is not the first time we have seen poor performance out of the pen, the last time we saw the Braves try secure a bat to make up for the

Schuerholz

Schuerholz

lack of arms in the pen. That resulted with John Schuerholz being demoted upstairs and the Rangers riding the trade to the World Series as they cleaned out all the available talent in the Braves farm system. It was a trade which I think has impeded the Braves ever since.

So, what do we have to look forward to short term?

Incarte

Incarte

Enders Incarte should be back soon.  That should allow Drew Stubbs or Mallex Smith to return to Triple A.  I still believe Albies will make it to the big club this season.  Just as soon as Eric Aybar improves his value and becomes acceptable to some other teams. That and who gets hurt, who stays healthy and who is positioned to make the play-offs.

Now, the biggest surprise might be the trade of Markakis. Not saying it will happen but I would not be surprised if it

Markakis

Markakis

does. Markakis would produce the biggest haul of any player currently on the roster. He has a very affordable contract for a player of his ability and would be a good addition for any team he was added to.

Other possible position player prospects we could see are Dansby Swanson and Rio Ruiz. I think a lot depends on how much the Braves think it would benefit both the club and the players to be promoted. The Braves already know the season is lost. Now it is a matter of how willing they are to bet they can keep their fan base intact for their move to their new stadium in 2017.

 

 

Gil2

#151: A New Beginning

Gil from Mechanicsville Mayor of Stuffville

Gil from Mechanicsville Mayor of Stuffville

by Gil Elliott

Leos staff

Leo’s staff

Long, long ago, in a city far away, there was a baseball franchise that achieved the pinnacle of success. This organization was one of the oldest in baseball with a reputation of being nomadic as well as somewhat mediocric. Oh, there were occasional spurts of success but nothing like what was to become know as an example of excellence which few believe will ever be equalled. Fourteen straight division titles. Of course there are those who will decry the fact only one world championship attained during that streak. However, that is still one more than the Cubs have won in the past one hundred and eight years.

Ted Turner

Ted Turner

This streak was built upon the money of Ted Turner, the idea of it all begins with pitching and the addition of a GM who was a savvy trader who knew how and when to pull the trigger for much needed pieces for each team. Knowing when to let some go and who to keep. That plus an environment which created an incentive for players to actually play for less money than what may have been available elsewhere.

John Schuerholz

John Schuerholz

Even the final season of the streak in 2005 was a Cinderella story nearly as amazing as the first in the worst to first story of 1991. The “baby Braves” with fourteen rookies on a roster to eek out an unbelievable finish resulting in Bobby Cox winning his final Manager of the Year award. But…. end it did. The sale of the Braves which was part of the Ted Turner, AOL, Time Warner merger resulted in Ted Turner losing controlling interest in the team. A corporate mind set permeated the organization and widespread defections began to take place. Stan Kasten, Dayton Moore, and many others signaled a change in the direction of the organization.

Glavine, Cox, Maddux Hall of Fame Induction

Glavine, Cox, Maddux Hall of Fame Induction

John Smoltz Hall of Fame Plaque

John Smoltz Hall of Fame Induction

 

While these changes did not show up immediately, it did begin to affect the overall quality of what had become a solid and substantial farm system which had been the secret of the Braves success. Developing players who could continue to replenish a team in a sport which has a relatively short shelf with players, few whom last more than 10 years after they reach the majors. When corporations take over any entity, they try to change the mindset of the acquired property and look at the bottom line and that is to do more with less and cut corners when possible and then flip the property after taking out the most value they can.

So it was with squeezing out Ted Turner and selling the franchise to Liberty Media by Time Warner/AOL. It was more of the same only worse. It was almost as if the Braves were following the Expos/Nationals model on how to destroy a once great franchise by cutting the farm system budget to the bare minimum and trading away any good player for cash. Almost like Jeffrey Loria on steroids.

Oh, the Braves still had some occasional flashes of success but even those were short lived. The center of power for excellence had shifted north. The Phillies, the Nationals and the Mets have all enjoyed their moment in the sun, all using the old Braves model of building from within. Now the question becomes whether these teams can sustain that success. We have already seen the Phillies fade as quickly as they arose. Burdened with a win-it-now philosophy where they overpaid for many of their stars, it left the cupboard bare.

So, what to expect this season? Sadly for Braves fans, the expectations are closer to a season more closely resembling 2015 than 1991. Of course a lot of Braves fans were still hoping for a miracle finish before the Braves threw in the towel and traded away Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe to the Mets. The Braves went into a nosedive from which there was no hope of recovery. Losing 95 games, perhaps not that big of a surprise after fading in 2014 and losing 83, we had essentially the same team which had won the division in 2013 with 96 victories. One has to wonder, did the Braves get worse or did everyone else get better?

Chipper Jones #10

Chipper Jones #10

So many questions, so few real answers but the fix was in. Frank Wren was gone and it seemed anyone who knew him was fired too. Perhaps the lone survivor was Fredi Gonzalez but you do need a scapegoat while you blow up a team and completely rebuild from the ground up. What has been a real positive is the Braves have been acquiring some really good talent. The problem is this talent is still years away from having a significant impact on the fortunes of the team. Prospects are just that: prospects. Remember, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine were not overnight successes. Chipper Jones spent years in the minors before he arrived in 1995. The “Great Eight” became a nucleus for a franchise known for continues success. Keeping some, trading others but the beginning was much different from the end.

I still point to the trade of five prospects for first baseman Mark Teixeira with Texas was the real beginning of the end for the Braves. A trade which propelled the Rangers into the World Series and the Braves into mediocrity. The thing which had kept the Braves relevant was gone. That coupled with a diminished player development doomed the Braves to where they are.

But, a new beginning is now in progress. It will be a tough slog for the Braves with what could be one of the toughest schedules in the first two months of the 2016 season. The flip side is it should reveal the true character of these players. We should also see the arrival of some of the future stars of the game. Guys like Albies and Swanson and Malix Smith and some of the highly-touted young arms. I do not expect a magical season for the Braves this year but I do see a light at the end of the tunnel which looks a little less like an oncoming freight train and more like the actual portal into the light.

Gil2



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