A day after saying he didn’t think the Braves needed a team meeting, manager Fredi Gonzalez changed his mind and called a closed-door meeting before batting practice Tuesday in hopes of clearing players’ minds and ending a season-long four-game losing streak.
The Braves had squandered multiple scoring opportunities (3-for-20 with runners in scoring position) Monday night and made a couple of mental mistakes in a 5-4, 12-inning loss to the Marlins.
His message on Monday was to relax and to take advantage of the situation the Braves are in – still 4 ½ games up on the wild card with 14 games to play entering Tuesday night.
“If you had said in Orlando ‘Hey our goal is to make the playoffs and would you take a 4 ½ game lead in September with 14 to go?’” Gonzalez said. “Everybody per man would raise their hand and say yes. OK, well, that’s where we’re at boys. Let’s go. And it’s fun.”
Two of the more vocal players in the meeting were Chipper Jones and David Ross. They stressed attention to detail.
“This is where we all wanted to be in February was controlling our own destiny over the last two weeks of the season and here we are,” Jones said. “The tone of it was we’re in a good spot, but we’re not playing the consistent nine-inning kind of baseball that we all expect to. It’s a pitch here, an at-bat there, it’s a play here. We need to get that mojo back.”
The last time the Braves had a closed-door meeting came June 5 after a loss in New York. They went on to win the next six games, including three against the Marlins. Jones and Ross called a players’ only meeting last Sept. 17 in New York after the Braves had lost eight of 13. They won the next three against the Mets.
This time around, Jones stressed the importance of what just one win can do.
“One win will cure a lot of people’s angst, so to speak,” Jones said. “And then one win hopefully breeds some confidence and brings another win tomorrow, and then all of a sudden we’re talking about what our magic number is to clinch the wild card and how many days off at the end of the season we’re going to be able to get before we start playing for real.”
Jones said players know what they need to do but just having a forum to talk about it can make a difference.
“It’s almost like therapy,” Jones said. “You knew what was going to be said, but it still helps to hear it, to say it, to look in your teammates eyes and let them see your conviction and know that you can’t help what happens next year. This might be your only opportunity. Go out and take it, grab it, it’s there for you. This is what we strived for. This might be your only opportunity of your whole career to get to this point. Don’t let it slip away.”