New York – So the Braves have won 10 of 12 games and have 11 more to play. And like we said last week, it was probably too late regardless of what they did the rest of the way, since the Braves not only needed to roar to the finish after their costly 0-5 skid, but also needed teams ahead of them to stumble.
And here we are, with 11 games left and the Braves five games behind wild-card leader. The Rockies have stumbled slightly, but they would have to skid even worse the rest of the way for the Braves to slip into the postseason, and that’s assuming the Braves win at least nine or 10 of their remaining games.
For those who still want to believe, here’s what would have to happen:
If the Braves (81-70) go 9-2 the rest of the way (given their competition, that’s possible), and finish 90-72, the Rockies (86-65) would have to go 4-7 to force a one-game playoff with the Braves.
Or, if the Braves go 9-2 and the Rockies go 3-8, the Braves would finish ahead of them and win the wild card without a playoff (and humor me for a second by forgetting about San Francisco, which has the same record as the Braves today and, I’m assuming, isn’t going to win nine of its last 11 games).
Now, if the Braves could muster, say, a 10-1 record the rest of the way, then the Rockies could go 5-6 and the Braves would play them in a one-game playoff. Or the Rockies would have to do 4-7 or worse for the Braves to finish as the wild-card winner without a playoff.
These are unlikely scenarios, sure. But not so far-fetched, when you consider that since Sept. 10, Atlanta is 10-2, Colorado is 6-5, San Francisco is 5-6, and Florida is 7-6. The Marlins are a half-game behind the Braves and Giants entering today’s games.
OK, are your heads spinning? Sorry about that, but I’m just trying to put it in real terms, what it would take, now that we’re inside of a dozen games to play.
Unlikely, yes. Extremely unlikely, even. But we’re not talking about it taking a miracle or anything, not given the way the teams involved have played recently.
Then again, just about every time Colorado has gone through any cold stretch, they’ve reeled off a hot one soon after. And after struggling a little through the weekend, they’ve won their past couple of games.
Tonight they’ve got 15-game winner Jason Marquis going against the Padres in Colorado. Meanwhile, here in fabulous Flushing, Queens, the Braves have Tim Hudson facing Mike Pelfrey another Mets pitcher who’s scuffled recently.
For Huddy, it’s his fifth start since returning from rehab for Tommy John surgery. He’s 0-1 with a 5.25 ERA and .327 opponents’ average in his past two, after going 1-0 with a 2.19 ERA and .222 OA in the first two. However, he had a quality start (seven innings, six hits, three runs) on Friday vs. Philly.
He’s 9-5 in 15 starts against the Mets, including 2-1 with a 4.76 ERA in three last season. Carlos Beltran is 21-for-59 (.356) with four homers against him.
As for Pelfrey, he’s is 1-3 with a 7.04 ERA in his past five starts, and dude allowed 18 hits including five homers in 13 innings during his past two.
He’s 2-4 with a 6.29 ERA in nine career games (eight starts) against the Braves, and Pelfrey gave up nine hits, nine runs and two homers in 4-1/3 innings of his last start against them July 17 in Atlanta. Brian McCann is 11-for-23 with a homer against him, Chipper Jones is 6-for-15 with two homers, and Adam LaRoche is 4-for-4.
♣ The real news: Overshadowed by Jair Jurrjens’ strong pitching performance last night, and Brian McCann’s hand injury (not serious), and a report about a certain manager angrily packing his car and preparing to call it a career and head home from Dark Star in the middle of spring training, was the most important news of the day: The Braves finally won another game when scoring three runs!
Yes, with their 3-1 win against the Mets on Tuesday, the Braves improved to 2-12 in games in which they scored three runs.
But seriously, that is a rather remarkable stat, don’t you think? No? Oh, well.
♣ Speaking of odd stats: I bet you can’t guess who leads the Braves in home runs on the road this season. Or who leads them in on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) in road games.
Don’t look below before you try to guess.
OK, have you made your choice?
Bet you didn’t guess Matt Diaz as the home-run leader, did ya? He has a team-high nine home runs in 183 at-bats on the road, ahead of McCann (eight in 236 at-bats) and Chipper (eight in 221 at-bats).
And I know you didn’t guess Nate McLouth as the road OPS leader, did ya?
McLouth has hit .321 with seven homers and a .405 OBP and .525 slugging percentage in 39 road games since being traded to the Braves. That’s a .930 OPS on the road. He’s hit just .218 with two homers and a .638 OPS in 34 home games.
And while we’re on the subject of home/road splits, the relatively pitcher-friendly Turner Field has not had any particularly beneficial affect on Jurrjens’ performance. He’s just this good: 7-4 with a 2.75 REA in 16 road starts.
Tommy Hanson’s .190 average allowed (37-for-195) by right-handed batters leads all major league qualifiers. That’s not nearly as surprising as this: Kris Medlen’s .189 average (23-for-122) against lefties is the 10th-lowest among NL qualifiers. What’s most unsusual is that Medlen, of course, is right-handed. Righty hitters have a .355 average against him (39-for-110)…. Since being traded to the Braves, Adam LaRoche has hit .457 (16-for-35) with runners in scoring position, with 10 walks and a .553 OBP…. For the season, Yunel Escobar’s .388 average (47-for-121) with RISP ranks second in the majors behind the Cubs’ Aramis Ramirez (.429 in 84 at-bats). Among hitters with as many or more at-bats as Escobar has with RISP, Florida’s Hanley Ramirez has the second-highest average in the majors at .379 (55-for-145), and McCann is fourth at .347 (42-for-121). The Braves have four of the NL’s top 10 qualifying RISP averages, including McLouth (.352, 38-for-108 with Pittsburgh and Atlanta) and Chipper Jones (.340, 35-for-103).
♣ For those who might care: I wrote this in comments earlier in the blog this morning, but I’ll repeat it here, with a couple other small things added. Skip over if you’ve already read or don’t care about this inside-reporting stuff.
Apparently some of our commenters on AJC blogs seem to think that if I, or MLB.com beat writer Mark Bowman, heard during spring training that Bobby Cox had packed his car the night before and was ready to quit and head home because of a squabble(s) with Frank Wren, we wouldn’t have reported it?
Believe me, if either of us had heard that story from a reliable source and felt certain (and our editors agreed) that it was true, I know that either of us — I probably shouldn’t speak for Bowman, but I will — would have reported it. That would have been a hell of a scoop in spring training, the kind you certainly never would pass up if you got it confirmed by one of the parties involved or felt strongly enough that your source was reliable (and then, or course, you would ask the parties directly for a reaction and tell them what you’ve got on record from a reliable source).
I read a comment from someone critical of no one who covers the team having this story, someone incredulous that we hadn’t heard about this and written it during spring training. As though we all are staying in such close quarters during spring training that we could have looked out our window and seen Bobby in the early morning hours, angrily packing his car in the parking lot and murmuring aloud about the GM, something like that.
If this story is true — Gordon Edes, who wrote it at Yahoo.com, is a very good reporter; as I’ve mentioned before, he’s a friend, former colleague at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and the guy who first asked me to come over to cover the Marlins with him, before he left for Boston — then it’s something that was told to one writer by one upset or concerned source who didn’t tell anyone else at the time. Hey, that happens. Some sources say something once and never repeat it again, and sometimes they regret saying it at all.
But understand, they don’t typically gather us reporters together to tell us these kinds of things. And we don’t go to coaches and players or the manager or GM each day during spring training and ask, “Is there any potentially career-changing tension going on with you this spring that you’d like to share at this time?” Or, “Did any major drama go on after you left the ballpark yesterday following the workout, any fight with a boss or a player that involved you or anyone you’ve heard about and that you care to divulge? No? OK, good, then let’s discuss pitching plans and how Lowe’s doing with his blister….”
As beat writers (and same for columnists, when they come out to the ballpark) you hear things every day, virtually every time we’re in the clubhouse or talking to this particular player, or this team official or that one. Much of it is said off the record, some of it is conveyed with body language meant to tell you that what the person just said is entirely b.s., so you use it accordingly or at least know that it’s b.s. Much of it is said on background, or with an undrerstanding, either stated or simply conveyed through the trust you’ve developed with that person, that you won’t use it in any way that can lead back to this person.
These are matters and situations that, in this role we’re in, you’ve got to weigh and juggle every day, every time you write. Do you use this or that info knowing that this person or that is not going to want to talk to you again or give you anything good again? Is it too good, too important, to not use, regardless of what it means for any future relationship with this person as a source or just as a good quote? Do you convey to the readers the tension you know exists between this player or that, or between this team official and that player, or how little respect this person has for that one? You might use 10 percent of such info in anything you write, and have to keep the rest to yourself because you don’t think it’s either: a. going to lead directly to any decision or action that affects the team either in the immediate future or long term, or b. the person told you it was off the record, and if it gets out it’s going to be obvious to this person, who probably knows exactly how many people he’s told or how many others are aware of something he’s told you about, that you broke a stated or understood agreement with him not to use the info on record.
Or, if you work in a market where newspapers turn over beat reporters every couple of years because everyone on the team hates them, then you just write the story and don’t worry about the future, since you’ll be moving on to another beat. Of course, you’re also not going to get any interesting stuff from that source or probably from anyone else on the team from that point forward, so forget every writing any human-interest type stuff or proving personal details for readers that players share with you or that you observe when players let their guard down in front of you.
Again, it’s subtle stuff you have to weigh every day, what to use and what to allow to color what you write in order to try to convey to readers without stating things directly. Do we hear about tensions between parties every day, between high-profile parties even? Of course. But if you start writing about every relationship, about the tension you might know exists between this person or that, and you’re a beat writer around the team every day — as opposed to a writer from another city or a national reporter writing a story that you heard from a good source about a team you don’t have day-to-day dealings with — you’re going to have to decide whether it’s worth cutting off that source by writing the story now. In other words, is this story big enough and going to have direct impact enough, right now, to risk not getting information from that source going forward for multiple stories, for many, many other stories you need to write using info on and off the record from that source?
All these are things that must be considered by those in our position. It’s just part of the job. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to express the complicated nature of covering any beat — government, crime, a sports team — to people who aren’t in the business and don’t necessarily care to hear that it’s not always cut-and-dried and that you don’t always get to share everything you know. Particularly in a unique situation, like when you’re dealing with people and personalities who are together in close quarters for nine months of the year — like, say, a baseball team. You have to realize that sometimes you’re going to need to let a columnist or a reporter who’s not assigned to your team write something you know to be true but you can’t write because you need to keep covering the team and keep writing news and inside info every day that you’re going to get because of relationships with people that you need to cultivate and not burn just to have a sexy story that might ultimately not be the be-all, end-all story it would have to be for you to judge it worthy of ending a working relationship with a valuable source.
Oh, I’m well aware some will say this is just long-winded excuse-making or trying to dismiss the Yahoo report. It’s not, at all. As I said, Edes is a damn good reporter, and a friend who attended my wedding. I’m not questioning anything he wrote, and never would. It wouldn’t be the first time he’s scooped me or hundreds of others. Both parties have denied to our Mark Bradley that this incident happened. I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t there, and didn’t hear whispers about it at the time, and neither did anyone else in the media — local or national — who was covering baseball all spring and asking questions about the team, on or off the record. At least not to the degree where anyone was confident enough to write it.
I do remember writing something else this spring that we were confident about, from another source. And when that story didn’t go as the source had told us it would, I do remember taking quite a bit of criticism for not sticking to known facts. I wonder if any of those critics might also be questioning why we didn’t hear this rumor and write it without confirmation from either of the involved parties? Surely not. Right?
♦ OK, gotta get over to the ballpark. Let’s take it out with a classic from a band, Jane’s Addiction, that put out a few terrific albums in the 1980s and then fractured too soon. The lyrics aren’t as great as the pounding song as a whole, so here’s a video from the Milan, Italy show on the 1986 tour. (I was at the Miami stop on this tour, from what I can remember.) Warning: Don’t watch if you don’t like heavy alternative rock.
“Ocean Size” by Janes’ Addiction (Perry Farrell)
Wish I was ocean size
They cannot move you
No one tries
No one pulls you
Out from your hole
Like a tooth aching a jawbone…
I was made with a heart of stone
To be broken
With one hard blow
I’ve seen the ocean
Break on the shore
Come together with no harm done…
It ain’t easy living…
I want to be
As the ocean
Some people tell me
Home is in the sky
In the sky lives a spy
I want to be more like the ocean