Archive for July, 2021

196:Down at the Crossroads

July 16, 2021

Gil ‘N Mechanicsville

The old folk lore has it that Delta Blues icon Robert Johnson Jr. went down to the crossroads to make a deal with the devil in order for him to become great blues guitarist. Perhaps the Braves have come to that same crossroads. I am not saying Alex Anthopoulos has to make such a trade but we already know Liberty Media is a godless entity so there is that. For sure 2021 has been a season fraught with peril. The loss of outfielder, “The Devil Made Me Do It” Marcel Ozuna. The absence of Silver Slugger Travis d’Arnaud, who was all thumb early in the season also to put a serious dent in the batting order. The failure of Mike Soroka to quickly recover for his Achilles injury first to rejection of the sutures used to secure the tendon and lastly for repair to simply fail while walking into the dugout hampered the Brave return to full strength in their rotation.

A brief fit of rage waylaid emerging star Huscar Ynoa when he vented his frustration with disappointing outing by punching a wooden bench with his pitching hand and breaking two bones. Didn’t he ever see the advice Kevin Costner gave to Tim Robbins in “Bull Durham”? Note to Alex: put a punching bag in the tunnel for such occasions.

Of course the team was a bit snake bit before the start of the season with owners Liberty Media playing the tight wad and preventing Anthopoulos the financial flexibility to sign Mark Melancon and Darren O’Day for the 2021 season. Melancon was not a strikeout king like Craig Kimbrel but he has been very effective in closing games for the San Diego Padres going 27-3 in save opportunities this season. That is Just a tad bit better than the entire Braves staff this year who have a perchance for blowing leads it seems.

I won’t mention Shane Green any further than to say, WHAT”S UP WITH HIM?

Perhaps all of the maladies which have befalling the Braves this season is bad Karma for not signing Freddie Freeman to a long term contract over the winter. It is my personal opinion that the failure to do so put the amiable first baseman into a slump at the plate which lasted for much of the first half of the season. Combined with the loss of Ozuna and d’Arnaud and the failure to launch with rookie centerfielder Christian Pachae, the Braves offense has pretty much been Acuna and Ozzie Albies with an occasional contribution from Austin Riley.

The replacements thrown into the breach are quad A players who can provide a temporary stop gap and even give some great effort but there is a good reason as to why they are not really everyday players, they are easily exposed. Having to use bench players regularly does two things, 1. they are never as good as the people they are replacing and 2. it weakens your bench.

No one would ever count on a starting outfield consisting of the like of Guillermo Heredia  , Abraham Almonte  and Ehire Adrianza to anchor a championship contending team. That is what the Braves had after Acuna’s season injury to his ACL last Friday in Miami. That is more like what the Pirates or Orioles would go to battle with.

Not saying the aforementioned are bad players, it is just the are more like the type of players you would call upon for bench support. Even Dansby Swanson’s woeful plate appearance could be overlooked if he was surrounded by an offense which could be counted on to come thru in the clutch but with him hitting 5th or 6th in the order, opposing pitchers can relax once they are past the first four batters. Something they could not do last season. I will forego the usual Swiss cheese analogies when describing this season’s line up but folks, YOU KNOW…

I have not even mentioned the Braves current bullpen woes but that won’t settle down until the starting staff solidifies. Opposing teams lick their chops when watching pitchers warming up to come in for the 6th inning. The have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads as opportunities to fatten their batting averages abound.

Alec Anthopoulos was dealt a short hand in the pre-season by Liberty Media and Brian Snitker will get much of the blame for all the shortcomings of this team but he can only drive the horses he is given. I’m sure he feels he is in a quandary every time he has to make a pitching change. I could write a tome on the disappointments of Tyler Matzek, Shane Green, Chris Martin, A J Minter, Will Smith, Edgar Santana and recently sent down Sean Newcomb and Jacob Webb. If feels strange to say the only reliable pitcher coming out of the pen these days is Luke Jackson.

This week AA made a trade with the Cubs picking up lefty hitter Joc Pederson who will sub for Acuna, no, not idea but at least an effort to shore up the outfield. Sadly, there is still much that is needed to be done. While it is too early to give up on this team, they have yet to break past the .500 mark this season. The schedule for the Braves gets hard for the three weeks post All-star break with the Padres, the Dodgers and the Mets on the menu. Were it not for the Mets getting off to such a rocky start, I am sure the Braves brain trust would have thrown in the towel by now but there is still and opportunity for them to break through but frankly, I would be very surprised to see it happening at this point.

The only positive I see with the upcoming schedule is the Braves often play up to their competition.


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