Braves would like to “disremember” September
It has been more than a week since the Braves completed their epic collapse and if you’re a Braves fan, I’m pretty sure you’re quite sick of reading the words “epic” and “collapse”. Back in the days when we didn’t have to worry about people’s feelings, we might have swapped this term with “complete and utter disaster.”
There were many colorful ways to describe the September that the Braves experienced and I’m quite sure many of you would like nothing more than to avoid reliving some of the details yet again. In fact if put under oath and asked to explain what transpired, I’m thinking many of you might channel Mark McGwire and say, “I’m not here to discuss the past…I’m here to be positive.”
If Roger Clemens were a Braves fan, he would likely like to “disremember” September.
As the Cardinals prepare to play the Phillies tonight in a winner-take-all fifth game of the National League Division Series, they are still recognized as the Cinderella bunch. They trailed the Braves in the Wild Card race by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 26 and 8 1/2 games back when September began. Heck, they were still three games back with just five games to play.
Yet, here the Cardinals are with an opportunity to match their ace Chris Carpenter up against Phillies ace Roy Halladay tonight to determine who will reach the NLCS.
Even after watching the disaster unfold in September, some of you might still be wondering what might have been had the Braves held on and qualified for the playoffs. Most of the rest of you have likely adopted, “there’s no way they would have advanced past the Division Series” theory.
Truthfully, there is no way to know exactly what October might have been like for the Braves. But even if it had proven to be a very short experience, it’s quite obvious that it would have been less painful than September.
The Braves exited August with the game’s fourth-best winning percentage. While winning just nine of their final 27 games, they produced a National League-worst .333 winning percentage.
Even after firing hitting coach Larry Parrish last week, Braves general manager Frank Wren said it would not be fair to put all of the blame on any one person or aspect of the club. While he seemed right with this assessment, a lack of consistency from an offensive perspective hurt the Braves all year.
When the offense ranked 11th in the National League in runs scored during the season’s first two months, a strong pitching staff kept the team afloat. Unfortunately the combination of a struggling offense and a pitching staff that kept games close on a nightly basis only added to the workloads experienced by setup man Jonny Venters and closer Craig Kimbrel.
Still the offense proved most destructive down the stretch when it needed to pick up a starting rotation that added a pair of rookies to the spots vacated when Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson were felled by injuries. Much of this could be blamed on the fact that Brian McCann and Martin Prado were shells of their former selves once they were activated from the disabled list.
The Braves scored at least 105 runs in each of the first five months of the season. The 87 runs they scored in September were the second fewest in the NL. The only team to score fewer runs was the Padres, who scored 79 runs and still managed to win 11 games during the season’s final month.
Had the Braves gone just 11-16 during September, they would have won the Wild Card by one game and began the Division Series in Milwaukee. Brandon Beachy would have started the first game and Tim Hudson likely would have started Game 2 on short rest. Jair Jurrjens would have been available to pitch one of the games.
And if Brett Favre had remained with the Falcons….OK. Yep. Time to turn the page.
Braves general manager Frank Wren and all of his top scouts will meet in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. next week to evaluate what went wrong in September and what they need to do to prepare for the 2012 season.
Finding a new hitting coach is obviously on the shopping list. But if I had to guess, there are probably a lot more pressing matters on Wren’s plate. Obvious needs are to find a shortstop (Alex Gonzalez is a free agent), a backup infielder and possibly some other bench help.
But coming off this kind of conclusion also requires him to essentially evaluate every one of his players to determine exactly how they might best fact into his club’s future plans. Hiring a hitting coach can certainly wait at least a few more weeks.
As you might have noticed when Wren addressed the situations of Jason Heyward and Derek Lowe last week, he was not in the mood to protect people’s feelings. But based on the responses received via Twitter, it seemed like the best time for him to run for public office was last week after it was revealed what he had said about these two players.
When he said Heyward is not guaranteed an everyday role next year, it seemed like he was simply trying to light a fire under his young outfielder as he entered the offseason.
When Wren said he didn’t see Lowe in his rotation next year, he was confirming he was not going to allow finances to dictate the makeup of his starting rotation. There will be attempts to trade Lowe and at least a portion of his $15 million salary. There’s also that possibility, the 38-year-old hurler could enter the 2012 season as the game’s most expensive mop up reliever.
Hey things could be worse. At least guy has been known to have made just half of that salary while spending this past summer pitching for the Mississippi Braves.