World Series teams strengthened bullpens as Braves rolled the dice

Instead of figuring out whether it was hitting, pitching or a combination of the two that doomed the Braves this year, somebody might want to figure out what the club did to infuriate the baseball gods to this level.

Seeing how they have had to spend the past three weeks trying to figure out how they simply self destructed in September, you would have thought they had endured enough pain to warrant a punishment.  But there seems to be a differing opinion from some of those same guys who blinded Chipper Jones as he attempted to field that two-out, ninth-inning grounder at Dan Marino’s Place.

Now the Braves find themselves subjected to watch a World Series that will feature a couple of teams that should be sending “Thank You” notes to Turner Field in the near future.

Had the Braves not included Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and Matt Harrison in the prospect-laden package that brought  Mark Teixeira to Atlanta in 2007, the Rangers likely would not be competing in a second consecutive World Series.

And obviously, had the the Braves not completely collapsed while going 9-18 in September, the Cardinals would not have even gained  postseason selection.

Once again, had the Braves simply gone 11-16 in September, there would not be a bunch of people huddling to watch a game at Busch Stadium tonight.

This year’s World Series features a matchup of two teams with great offenses and a bullpens that were significantly upgraded at the Trade Deadline.

With the additions of relievers Mike Adams and Koji Uehara, the Rangers strengthened their relief corps.  As for the Cardinals, they completely altered their season when they used Colby Rasmus to add Marc Rzepczynski (Scrabble) and Octavio Dotel to their weak bullpen mix.

Over the past week, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has said his club might not have been a .500 team without that trade, which also added Edwin Jackson to the St. Louis rotation.

As you might remember there was definitely reason to believe the Braves would add a right-handed reliever before the Trade Deadline.   Many of the veteran players seemed to be expecting the club to do this to lessen the wear and tear experienced by Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel .

But instead of attempting to get a reliever, the Braves opted to roll the dice on 20-year-old Arodys Vizcaino and Peter Moylan, who was never expected to return from back surgery until September.

Long before the Braves revealed they had learned in January that Moylan had a slight tear in his right shoulder, there was no way anybody could have been confident about what he would provide in September.  The dude was coming off back surgery.

Now Moylan is  battling back from the shoulder surgery he was forced to undergo after making just six September appearances.

Vizcaino seemed to be the right choice in August.  But the 20-year-old prospect was never quite the same after he allowed five runs while recording one out as the Braves blew a five-run lead and lost to the Dodgers on Sept.  2.

Three weeks after the Braves concluded their epic September collapse,  there is still no reason to blame the collapses on one person or one event.   You have to wonder how things might have been different had Brian McCann or Martin Prado shown even the slightest bit of their normal consistency in September.

Of course, you also have to wonder where the Braves might have gone they had Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson in their rotation down the stretch.   Or what might have happened had the Braves added a reliever for the final two months?  Would this have been enough to prevent Kimbrel and Venters from faltering during the season’s most important stretch?

Throughout most of this season, the Braves had enviable depth in their rotation and bullpen.  Chipper Jones said the pitching staff was one of the deepest he had ever played alongside.

But by the end, this was a pitching staff that was simply trying to get by on a nightly basis.  The Braves had three rookies in the rotation in September and their 38-year-old veteran (Derek Lowe) was pitching like he was 58.   And of course, the once rock-solid bullpen crumbled with Venters and Kimbrel down the stretch.

To best understand how far the Braves fell by the end, you just have to remember that with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth inning of a tied game they needed to win on the regular season’s final day, they called upon Kris Medlen to make his second appearance of the season.

If the Braves had won the game after Medlen worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings that evening, the energetic right-handed pitcher might have been the focus of some great stories.

But because of the way things unfolded, Medlen now simply stands as part of that ugly story that will continue to be told until the Braves next prove successful in their attempt to preserve a lead in the playoff standings during the season’s final month.

PREDICTION:  Rangers in five games.


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