Wren, Fredi G. reflect on collapse, look ahead

One week into a Braves offseason that came all too quickly, I’m guessing it’s still a little difficult for some of you folks to wrap you minds around the fact that the Braves in September were one of the worst teams in baseball, after being one of the best three or four best teams for most of the year.

Wren shakes Gonzalez's hand after introducing him as Braves manager on Oct. 13, 2011, two days after the Braves lost to San Francisco in the division series. An epic September swoon kept them from returning to the postseason this year.

Wren shakes Gonzalez's hand after introducing him as Braves manager on Oct. 13, 2011, two days after the Braves lost to San Francisco in the division series. An epic September swoon ended the 2012 season.

For me, it has been — and I had a really good seat for the whole thing.

We’re going to get to some more of the Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez post-mortem interviews from last week, some things that didn’t make it in the paper in our stories and Q&As. Because there were a lot of things to discuss,  more than we had room to publish.

I think you’ll find interesting several more things that both had to say in the aftermath of a month that felt a little like the sad Green Day song, “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”

We know the pitching staff was diminished by midseason injuries to Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, which forced an overworked bullpen to pile up even more innings down the stretch when some of the young starters were getting the hook after about five innings.

But the offense? It still seems hard to grasp how the Braves could be as bad offensively as they were down the stretch, even considering that Brian McCann was never the same after an oblique strain and Martin Prado never looked like himself for more than a game or two after missing more than five weeks for a staph infection.

Still, it was hard to believe that so many hitters who were counted upon could go bad at the same time? From young Jason Heyward to grizzled veteran Eric Hinske, neither of whom had a season anywhere near as productive as they had a year before.

Just to refresh, these Braves hit .185 while totaling seven runs in 49 innings during a season-ending five-game losing skid. That included, appropriately enough, no runs in their final 10 innings of a 13-inniing season-finale loss — also appropriate, given they played a majors-leading 26 extra-inning games this season.

They totaled seven runs in 49 innings over five losses, and all but two of those runs came via four homers. That’s right, the Braves produced just two runs in their final 49 innings without benefit of a home run.

So, no, there hasn’t been anyone stepping forward or complaining about hitting coach Larry Parrish being scapegoated or fired without cause. Good guy, but his charges’ stats were just horrid when it counted most, and the situational hitting was bad all season.

As you all know, the Braves blew a wild-card lead of 8-1/2 games in September, and did it in just 3-1/2 weeks after Sept. 5. They did it by going 7-16 in the last 23 games, posting a 4.27 ERA in that crucial stretch – well over a run higher than their ERA in the first half of the season – and by hitting .225 with 71 runs, or barely more than three runs per game.

They hit .195 with runners in scoring position for September, and that total was boosted seven points by a 4-for-13 in the season-ending loss. Only Toronto hit worse with runners in scoring position  in September, and the Blue Jays had a little less riding on the outcome.

Brian McCann finished the season mired in the worst slump of his career after spending barely two weeks on the DL recovering from a strained oblique muscle.

Brian McCann finished the season mired in the worst slump of his career after spending barely two weeks on the DL recovering from a strained oblique muscle.

We won’t go through all the hitting stats again here. You’ve seen them enough and probably don’t need to be reminded of the agony again so soon. But let me just say, it really was like watching a death by a thousand cuts, seeing this Braves team squander its lead – 10-1/2 games on Aug. 25 – by failing night after night in situations with runners in scoring position, blowing leads early and late, watching starters give up runs in the first couple of innings too many nights, seeing talented kids run up 90-pitch counts in five innings, etc.

It barely resembled the team we saw for much of the first four-fifths or so of the season.

After building a 10-1/2-game lead over St. Louis on Aug. 25, the Braves went 10-20 with a 4.31 ERA, .228 average and only 92 runs scored the rest of the way, including two runs or fewer in 40 percent of those games, and one or no runs in eight of 30.

While the Braves were going 10-20, the Cardinals went 22-9, posting a 3.14 ERA while hitting .287 and scoring nearly five runs per game after Aug. 25.

And get this: The Braves went 25-9 with a 2.62 ERA in 34 home games from June 19 through Sept. 1, then 4-8 with a 4.19 ERA in their final 12 home games.

Here are some further details of the autopsy:

• Chipper Jones, after hitting .350 with eight homers, 19 RBIs and a 1.034 OPS in 33 games from Aug. 8 to Sept. 18, hit .147 with one homer, two RBIs and a .454 OPS in his last nine games.

Martin Prado hit .228 with a .272 OBP in 51 August-September games, with three homers and 19 RBIs.

Brian McCann hit .180 with a .292 OBP in 37 August-September games, with four doubles, six homers, 16 RBIs.

McCann had two homers, nine RBIs and a .280 slugging percentage in 26 games after Aug. 29, leading many of us to believe the six-time All-Star catcher might have been hurting more from a strained oblique than he let on.

After the perennial All-Star catcher led the Braves before the All-Star break in average (.310), RBIs (50), walks (34), OBP (.381) and slugging (.514) and tied Dan Uggla for the homer lead (15), McCann then endured his worst second half, which included a DL stint for the oblique and these  numbers: .203 average, four doubles, nine homers, 21 RBIs, 23 walks and 42 strikeouts in 172 at-bats, and a .301 OBP and .384 slugging.

McCann had an .895 OPS before the break and .685 OPS after.

• July 31 pickup Michael Bourn hit just .254 with a .295 OBP and seven RBIs in 30 games after Aug. 25, albeit with 14 steals in 16 attempts. The leadoff man had 31 strikeouts and seven walks in that 30-game span.

Uggla, after hitting .339 with 18 homers, 38 RBIs and a 1.106 OPS in a torrid 45-game stretch from July 5 to Aug. 25, hit .243 with seven homers, 15 RBIs and a .790 OPS in 30 games the rest of the way.

Again, that Aug. 25 date was like an ending point for so many, and the Aug. 26 game – the first of the ill-fated New York trip in which the last two games were postponed by approaching Hurricane Irene, were like a starting point for a Braves demise.

More on that post-hurricane slide in a moment from Wren.

• The Braves got Matt Diaz in a waiver trade just before the Aug. 31 deadline to make him eligible for the postseason. Diaz hit .286 (10-for-35) in 16 games, but had just one extra-base hit, one RBI and one walk with eight strikeouts.

• Jose Constanza was the proverbial lightning in a bottle in the first few weeks after his major league debut, hitting .354 with two homers, nine RBIs, seven steals and a .398 OBP and .463 slugging percentage in 25 games through Aug. 25.

Wren and Gonzalez met for more than three hours last Friday, two days after the season ended, to discuss everything that worked and didn't work, from how spring training was run to game-day routines.

Wren and Gonzalez met for more than three hours last Friday, two days after the season ended, to discuss everything that worked and didn't work, from how spring training was run to game-day routines.

Then he hit .148 (4-for-27) with no extra-base hits, one RBI and no steals in 17 games the rest of the season, with a .148 OBP and .148 slugging percentage. He turned an ankle before that slump began, and never looked the same even after it healed. (Conztanza got only limited playing time in that span after Gonzalez decided to stick with Heyward.)

• While Heyward had a wholly disappointing second season, he was actually one of the Braves’ most productive hitters down the stretch. That’s not saying much, but he did have a .373 OBP in 27 game after Aug. 25, although he had only four extra-base hits (one homer), six RBIs and 20 strikeouts in 68 at-bats during that period.

• Meanwhile, this year model of Braves rookie hitting sensation, Freddie Freeman, hit .233 with three homers, 12 RBIs and a .304 OBP and .633 OPS in 29 games after Aug. 25.

This after hitting .333 with nine homers, 30 RBIs and a .386 OBP and .922 OPS in 48 games through Aug. 25.

Aug. 26. That’s the day Mets lefty Chris Capuano threw a two-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts against the Braves. A day when a hurricane was approaching New York, while an epic collapse was approaching the Braves.

♣ Without further ado, here are the unused portions – some quite good, I think – from the interview that four of us writers did last Friday (Sept. 30), two days after the season ended.

Wren began the session by announcing that, contrary to Gonzalez’s statement the day before about the entire coaching staff returning intact, Parrish had actually been fired and was told earlier that day.

FRANK WREN INTERVIEW

On firing hitting coach Parrish

“We have made a decision to not bring Larry Parrish back. Yesterday morning you guys met with Fredi, and it was fresh off a real tough end to the season, real tough loss. And I think one of the first questions was, what about your staff? Fredi and I talked at the end of the season and I’d asked him if he wanted to bring his staff back. His response to me was, yes, with some reservations. Some things that we needed to address. And quite frankly, that’s how I felt. I thought that we had some areas, in our hitting especially, that needed to be addressed. And when we invited the coaches back … it’s really a formality for the guys that have one-year contracts. There’s three guys that have one-year contracts and three that have multi-year contracts. Larry being one of those, because he came from another organization we gave him a two-year contract. So there really was not a need to invite Larry back, because he had a contract.

“And so I think when you guys talked to Fredi yesterday, the reality is it was a tough loss and a tough season, and he didn’t want anybody to be thrown under the bus at that point…. And so he told you they’re all coming back. Our view was, we were going to meet and be thoughtful about this process. And we had a meeting yesterday afternoon in Fredi’s office with Larry. Not to talk about his future, but to talk about our future, and talk about plans for 2012 with specific players. My concerns going in, based on what I saw all season long, were amplified in that meeting. And I came away from that meeting pretty sure we needed to make a change.”

More on what concerned him about Parrish

“The overall philosophy and the message, I’m not sure that it got through to the players. And the players have to take some of the responsibility, as well. Because we’ve got guys who’ve played for a number of years, and they know what they’re doing. And so it’s not just the hitting coach, by any means. But we did feel like that we weren’t on the same page philosophically, from a hitting perspective.”

“It was fairly obvious throughout the season that it wasn’t a good fit.”

On hiring a new hitting coach

“We’re going to make an exhaustive search. We’re going to go out, and there’s no timetable, there’s no rush. We want to make sure we get the right person that fits for our organization and what our expectations are. Larry’s a fine man, and he’s a good baseball man. I don’t think there’s anybody that would say otherwise.”

“We haven’t put any limitations on it.”

Shane Victorino is one of several Phillies who've tormented the Braves in recent years, and Wren points to the Phillies as examples of the tough outs that he wants Braves hitters to be.

Shane Victorino is one of several Phillies who've tormented the Braves in recent years, and Wren points to the Phillies as examples of the tough outs that he wants Braves hitters to be.

On whether the September swoon created a need to do something, to make a statement to fans and the media (hence the firing two days after the season ended)

“That was not the reason that we did it. There were enough questions in our mind that we couldn’t go forward to 2012 with the feeling that changes would be made, and changes needed to be made. They need to be made with a number of our hitters, and with our whole offensive production. Bottom line, you’ve got to have confidence that that can be done.”

On what he wants from hitters

“I like to see hitters battle at the plate. Take your shot if you feel like you’ve got a pitch that you can drive out of the park, but after that I want to see you battling. I want to see guys be tough outs. We didn’t have enough tough outs. The bottom line is, we didn’t battle at the plate. And that’s got to change. And philosophically, that was probably the most frustrating part. And I’m not saying that Larry doesn’t believe in that.”

“It’s situational hitting, it’s not just settling for a good swing and a strikeout. That’s a bad at-bat in my mind. Philadelphia just left here. They battled every day, up and down that lineup. They’re going to make a pitcher work to get them out. Too many times if you made three or four good pitches against us it was pretty easy to get through our lineup. That needs to change.”

“Good teams figure out a way to get those runs in, because one here and one there add up over the course of a game. The good teams, they do that very well. And we had a very good team, but that was probably our Achilles heel. We had a team that very easily could have won 95 games, with just playing any decent pace in September. That’s a lot of wins in the major leagues. And our biggest deficiency was our situational hitting.”

On the collapse and reviewing the season

“Fredi and I just spent 3-1/2 hours talking about, really, the whole gamut. Everything since he’s been hired. A review of the season and the offseason and spring training, what went well and what didn’t go so well, things we want to fix and things we want to change and make better. It was really a positive meeting.”

On Gonzalez and the team in September

“I think Fredi brings a lot of positive characteristics to this job. September was tough on everybody. We’ve seen that good teams are not immune to this. Watching the Red Sox get beat on TV after our game, two teams that either had the fourth or fifth best record in baseball — our two teams, back on Sept. 1. And you just saw how it could change so quickly. And you had a young manager in Fredi and one of the most respected managers in the game in Terry Francona. It can happen. And having witnessed up close and very personal, try as you might, it’s very hard to stop. You can try everything possible, and I think we did – whether it was meetings and private meetings and meeting with the veterans and meeting with the leaders, trying to get guys to feel more comfortable and to feel less pressure and as many things as you could possibly do. There was no stopping it. I think that’s the hard part for everyone.”

Boston's September collapse diverted some national attention away from the Braves' fold job, and the Red Sox opted not to retain veteran manager Terry Francona.

Boston's September collapse diverted some national attention away from the Braves' fold job, and the Red Sox opted not to retain veteran manager Terry Francona.

On Chipper mentioning that it was a mostly young team, and that things can snowball with a young team

“I think we saw that the veteran players on the team weren’t immune to it either. It was a cross section of the whole team. It wasn’t just the young players. Some of the biggest strugglers were our veteran players.

“Our biggest area of struggle was runners in scoring position. We were 29th out of 30 clubs in September, with runners in scoring position. We had lots of opportunities. I think the Washington series, the game against Detwiler was a classic example. Bases loaded nobody out in the second, couldn’t score. Two innings later second and third, one out, perfect bunt by Minor got us in position, couldn’t score. That was a perfect example of what went wrong in September.”

On McCann and team struggling after Hurricane Irene postponed two games in New York Aug. 27-29 (McCann had four days off, the team had three including scheduled off day in schedule Aug. 30)

“After the hurricane Fredi and I talked about that, how after the team was kind of ordered out of town after the first night, we really, from a consistently standpoint, we had played pretty good baseball every single month since the first month. Very consistent, 16-17 wins a month since the first month. And we were to the point where we were in mid-20s games over .500. And I never felt the same about this team after that three-day break. I think we were the only team to get a three-day break; I think everybody else played on Monday. We had a built-in off day, and I think it impacted us to a great degree.

“I just didn’t feel like we had that sharp edge before that, where you felt like we were going to win. I know, sitting where I sat, I didn’t feel like we were going to win every night, where I did before that. I felt like every night we went into a game with a good chance to win. When we came back from that [break], I didn’t feel like we had that edge.”

Did starters not going deep in games late in season take a toll on the ‘pen?

“We had to use the bullpen. We blew some key games late. [But] I think that, to me, is more a residual of not being sharp, of not having that edge. We lost that with that extra time off, and I never felt like we regained it, right down to that last game. I never felt we regained that sharp edge, where the bullpen guys came in and were able to go right at hitters and just set ‘em down 1-2-3. It just never felt that way again.”

On a sort of perfect storm of Braves woes in September, when so much went wrong

“We stopped hitting. We were depending on young pitchers and they didn’t go as deep into games, for sure. But when you look at 17 games where you gave up four runs or less, somebody was doing a good job.”

“We were having a very difficult time scoring runs. That’s the biggest reason we used our bullpen so heavily the first two months, was lack of runs. We were playing extra-inning games, we were playing all these close games, and so we never gave our bullpen a breather by busting out and scoring seven or eight runs.”

Hurrican Irene didn't wreak as much havoc upon New York City as anticipated, but the Braves were never the same after their three-day break following the postponement of games against the Mets.

Hurrican Irene didn't wreak as much havoc upon New York City as anticipated, but the Braves were never the same after their three-day break following the postponement of games against the Mets.

Near end, was it a matter of guys gripping the bat too hard, so to speak, trying too hard?

“I think by that time it had become gripping the bat too hard. It wasn’t lack of trying, it wasn’t lack of effort. The pressure built, and every game and every run was so important, it became very difficult. Like I said, its’ living and dying with every pitch.

“There’s lot of people I feel very badly for. I feel badly for our organization. I feel badly for our fans. Our fans that follow us, pitch after pitch and game after game – I hear from them. I hear from them, and they’re struggling with this, just like we are. This is a tough time. All the people that work in this organization, all the people that work in this stadium. There’s lot of people that depend on this team for their enjoyment and their entertainment. It was a tough September.”

On Alex Gonzalez finally getting hot at end, then getting hurt

“Gonzo was one of our best hitters there for a week or two, right before he got hurt. And that came at a horrible time for us, with a week left. He’d really starting driving in big runs and being more productive. Big hits were hard to find throughout the month.”

So did you think Fredi Gonzalez did a good job?

“I do think he did a good job. We had 81 wins Sept.1. I think Fredi did a good job. This is one of those clearly impossible situations. You take a look at two managers – Terry Francona is considered one of the very best managers in the game, and Fredi is considered an young up-and-coming manager. And they had very similar records coming into Sept. 1. And so with all of Terry’s experience and two World Championships, he couldn’t lighten the load on his team, either. It’s very difficult, I think it’s more difficult than people give it credit for. I think Fredi has a lot of great qualities.”

On what he views as Fredi’s strengths, including being a communicator

“Fredi is one of those guys that, he reaches out to them. He reaches out to them and is aware of what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling and what’s going on with them. And I think that’s important in today’s game.”

“I thought Fredi ran the game very well. From a team standpoint, it made it very tough on him because of our offensively struggles. So many of his decisions that he’s being judged on are based on the offensive struggles that created situations where he had to use the bullpen more than he would have liked, because of extra-inning games, close games and you’re trying to get off to a good start, especially early in the season. You’re trying to stay with your league leaders, with your division leaders.

“You’re trying to get that momentum going and you think any day our offense is going to kick in and we’re going to start scoring runs and be able to use our bullpem more than we would like. Unfortunately for us that day never came. It really never came. And he and Roger sat down just prior to the All-Star break and decided, OK, we’ve got to slow down the usage of these pitchers and we’re going to regular it more closely. And I think they did a really good job of regulating it more closely in the second half. But they were playing the hand they were dealt in the first half.”

On the “O’Ventbrel” bullpen trio returning

“They were as good as any three out there, and they can build off this year. Again, experience is a great teacher, and they have continued to get better. I think Craig [Kimbrel] probably said it best the other night, he didn’t know how tough September would be. Young guys going through the full season of the grind at the major league level, and so I think they will be better for it and better prepared for it next time.”

Delgado was one of several impressive pitching prospects who shone when thrust into major-league roles this season. GM Wren says he doesn't plan to trade away young pitching.

Delgado was one of several impressive pitching prospects who shone when thrust into major-league roles this season. GM Wren says he doesn't plan to trade away young pitching.

Looking ahead, how do you view your abundance of pitching?

“We have a lot of pitching but I think it’s not something that we’re looking to trade from. I think we want to go into spring training with lots of options. The part that a bit of an unknown is you never know how kids are going to mature from one year to the next. If these kids continue to mature at the pace they are, we could have a lot of really tough decisions in spring training. And that’s a real good thing. I think we’re on the verge of having a really dynamic young pitching staff that matches up with anyone. But we’re not quite there yet. We might be, in six months at spring training. You just don’t know how fast they’re going to mature. [Randall] Delgado grew up incredibly from this time last year till he got to spring training, and then even more so before he made that first start against Texas.”

So, could some of the young pitchers go back to Triple-A again for a while?

“I don’t think there’s any reason they have to make our major league club, if we feel like there’s additional things they could learn at Triple-A and there’s a full rotation here. I don’t think it hurts any of them to go back, but we’re going to be open-minded in the spring as to who may make that next jump and go from being a young pitcher that’s pitching pretty well, to being dominant. Because they all at different times in the minor leagues have been pretty dominant. And we think they can in the major leagues, as well.”

Bourn is a Scott Boras client, so do you even try to sign him long-term [before Bourn becomes a free agent after the 2012 season]?

“I don’t know the answer to that. He’s an arbitration-eligible player that will go through the process. If those discussions come up during that process…. We like Michael, we like what he brings to the team, the infusion of speed. So if that opportunity exists, we’ll explore it.”

Boras generally takes all his guys to free agency…

“Not all of them. It’s up to the player. My experience with Scott, and we saw that with the pitcher, Jared Weaver [who re-upped with Angels for less than he could have gotten on free-agent market]. He said ‘Scott, I want to stay here, I want to get a deal done.’ I think Scott looks out for his client, and in that regard if his client wants to stay here, then I think it can be done.”

Braves could look real similar in 2012?

“We could come back with a lot of the same team and have a very good team. But you’re always looking to get better, and that’s the approach we’re going to take. We’ve stated we want to get more athletic and faster and we’ve started that process. I think we can continue that process this winter, whether from inside or out.”

On waiting to decide about rookie shortstop Tyler Pastornicky’s readiness and other matters after meeting next week with scouts and team officials at organization meetings

“We don’t have that one big need [this winter], but we have thoughts about ways to improve our club. We’ll see how they play out at our meetings and then going forward.”

♣ OK, that’s it for the Wren interview. And here are a few leftovers from the interview Sept. 28 with Fredi Gonzalez, about 12 hours after the Braves’ season-finale loss to Philly.

FREDI GONZALEZ INTERVIEW

On it being called one of worst collapses ever, and you being in middle of it

“I mean, it happened. It’s not like we can close our eyes and it will go away. It happened, and it’s going to be there forever… It offends me, but I mean, what can you do about it? It happened.”

On the lineup struggling so mightily in September

“You know what, if you look at the offense the whole year, really, it never clicked. For whatever reason, it never clicked. Those months of July-August, Freeman and Danny were pretty much our offense, with Chipper and McCann out of our lineup, two different stints on the DL.

“But yeah, it was an offense that, for me, never hit on all cylinders for a whole year. Our pitching covered it up for five months, pretty much. September you look at some of the numbers, and I think 17 games we gave up four runs or less, and we only won, what, nine games? And some of those games we lost 1-nothing.”

On evaluating team and needs

“It’s too hard to evaluate right now. I think the best thing is, three or four days we’ll get together. Because right now nobody can play, everybody sucks – including myself. [laughs]. You know what I mean? And it’s not fair. So I think in three or four days you sit back, after everyone has kind of detoxed a little bit, and say, OK, let’s get a good evaluation of the club and what we need. And I’m sure that, it’s just the nature of the game, we’ll restructure, you know, pieces here, what’s available, and always try to improve the club.”

“The hardest thing is trying to keep the line[up] moving. You get base hit, steal, out, base hit, bam bam – we just never got that [kind of] consistency, keeping the line moving. But I’m sure we’ll go out and see what’s out there. I don’t even know what’s out there.”

On overusing relievers

“There’s a lot of stuff that you sit back and evaluate and say, you know what, maybe I could have done this a little bit different. That particular situation — you know what? If we don’t use those guys I don’t know if we have 89 wins. I will tell you honestly, there were some games, probably couple of games in April or May where you say, you know what, maybe we shouldn’t have used them. Coming off the All-Star break I thought we did a helluva job not using those guys, and keeping them fresh.”

“When you start playing 26 extra-inning games, you’ve got to go with your guys. We played, what was it, almost six extra games. And that’s with your bullpen.”

On Prado batting second even as he slumped

“You know, that’s one of those things that at the end of the day you’re thinking, what if I would have done this different? What if I would have hit the pitcher eighth for two more weeks instead of four days? Maybe we should have played Constanza more? Maybe we hung with Heyward too long? All kinds of scenarios.

“Chipper hit over .300 and drove in runs when he was hitting second. Maybe we should have left him there. Dave, believe me, in these next three or four days there’s going to be a lot of could’ve, should’ve, would’ve.”

On Constanza/Heyward controversy in blogs and Twitter, etc.

“I don’t even read that stuff. Internally, I think of that stuff. Constanza rolls his ankle and then you pop Jason back in there and you see some [encouraging] at-bats, you seem some games… There’s so many things you can look back [and question].”

On Chipper

“What is he, 39? And did he hit, .270, .280? With 17 homers, 70 RBIs. “That’s pretty good, and he’s taking shots and all kinds of stuff.”

On McCann struggling so long in second half

“I never seen him like that, because this guy can hit. You know what? It happens. Look at the two months Danny Uggla had in April and May.”

On Prado

“I really enjoyed watching him compete and fight through some of the stuff that he had to fight through. I’m sure if you ask him he doesn’t think he had a good year either. For his standards.”

On Prado not being same after staph infection

“And he played the last month with, I don’t know if you guys noticed but he couldn’t run like he normally can. He had leg [issues]. Nagging stuff.”

On Medlen

“Next year he could be a bullpen guy, or maybe you can work him up in the starting rotation if you want to. Adds pretty good depth to your pitching.”

♣ OK, if you’re eyes aren’t glazed over yet (or even if they are), let’s close this with a tune that should jolt you. “Left of the Dial” by the mighty, mighty Replacements, which you can hear by clicking here.  By the way, for the past week we’ve had a lot of sweet Georgia breezes that Paul Westerberg references in the tune. Too bad we had no baseball here in this perfect weather.

0324replacements

“LEFT OF THE DIAL” by The Replacements

Read about your band in some local page
Didn’t mention your name, didn’t mention your name
Sweet Georgia breezes, safe, cool and warm
I headed up north, you headed north

On and on and on and on
What side are you on?
On and on and on and on
What side are you on?

Weary voice that’s laughin’, on the radio once
We sounded drunk, never made it on
Passin’ through and it’s late, the station started to fade
Picked another one up in the very next state

On and on and on and on
What side are you on?
On and on and on and on and…

Pretty girl keep growin’ up, playin’ make-up, wearin’ guitar
Growin’ old in a bar, ya grow old in a bar
Headed out to San Francisco, definitely not L.A.
Didn’t mention your name, didn’t mention your name

And if I don’t see ya, in a long, long while
I’ll try to find you
Left of the dial

– David O’Brien, Braves/MIB blog

5,813 comments Add your comment

TnBrian

October 6th, 2011
11:04 pm

TnBrian

October 6th, 2011
11:07 pm

Thanks for the late nighter, DOB.

Efrim

October 6th, 2011
11:10 pm

Thanks DOB! Clean, new blog!

RaleighDawg

October 6th, 2011
11:12 pm

On Chipper

“What is he, 39? And did he hit, .270, .280? With 17 homers, 70 RBIs. “That’s pretty good, and he’s taking shots and all kinds of stuff.”

And this sums up why the Braves will never will with current ownership and management….Compentent leadership would be asking the questions: is this worth $14m a season and could that $14m be better spent ?

cabravesfan

October 6th, 2011
11:17 pm

My eyes hurt…but that might be the wine…

Jesus

October 6th, 2011
11:20 pm

It’s been a week and this is honestly the first post Braves season column I have read. Doesn’t make it any easier but I’m glad Wren is showing frustrations as well. Fredi is like a robot. He never says anything different. 2012 is going to be as big as a season in recent memory. Start off slow and everyone will be talking about this Septemer. Start quick and everyone will say were going to collapse again. This still sucks!!!

The A Bomb – OUTCHOKED ®

October 6th, 2011
11:21 pm

Nice blog. And a new one.

A Phillies loss tomorrow and they, too, will have OUTCHOKED the Braves.

As for Gonzalez, maybe he can go to winterball and refine his skills.

A similar team loses 80-90 next season.

ABSOLUTELY IMPROVED TEAMS FOR ‘12: Washington, Florida, New York, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, San Francisco.

INTERLEAGUE: New York (6), Boston (3), Tampa Bay (3).

Carryover from this will be apparent from the start. Tougher schedule. More losses.

Bravofan

October 6th, 2011
11:22 pm

Wow nice DOB good read!!
Now al these people will stop whining thank you!

cabravesfan

October 6th, 2011
11:26 pm

My dog just charged the window to bark at nothing…

stizz

October 6th, 2011
11:26 pm

“It was fairly obvious throughout the season that it wasn’t a good fit.”

Wren isn’t pulling any punches.

Love it.

Chop Chop

October 6th, 2011
11:27 pm

Siddown, Jetah.

veer

October 6th, 2011
11:29 pm

Look at the Yankee fans with their head down. THAT WAS SO CLOSE.
sucks we could have had easy way to world series.
No Yankees Redsox, Phillies and Brewers be elimited

Strikeoutlookin

October 6th, 2011
11:29 pm

Might be a crazy though but what about Chipper as the Player/Hitting coach…. Would be interesting, especially with it being no hidden secret Chipper wants the job when he’s done.. Young guys obviously will listen to him, and Now that Parrish is finally gone, it would be a vertical move.

veer

October 6th, 2011
11:30 pm

I was surprised Tigers didn’t bring in Velverde in the 8th but they survived.
Riveria has to pitch the 9th i think for Yankees

stizz

October 6th, 2011
11:30 pm

A BOMB,

Are you joking? The Mets will be bad if not worse than they are now with the loss of Reyes. Their pitching is decent.

San Fran will lose Beltran and still needs offense.

While Pitt has a good young team, they lack the payroll to add significant pieces around that talent.

TnBrian

October 6th, 2011
11:31 pm

Ya know, this was my first “first”. Nearly 5 years being on here. Call me a minor leaguer getting his first big league hit.

Tom O'Hawke

October 6th, 2011
11:32 pm

I guess even the Braves deserved a proper burial.

Good job, DOB.

Chop Chop

October 6th, 2011
11:32 pm

Thanks for the blog, DOB.

It’s hard to believe that Wren is entering his fifth season as GM here. Time flies when you aren’t winning anything of note.

Cap Tipper

October 6th, 2011
11:32 pm

Sometimes you just have to tip your cap….Oh, wait. We didn’t play today?

TnBrian

October 6th, 2011
11:35 pm

veer, I know,Wren had all the right answers. I also noticed he says Fredi did a “good”, not “great” job like he would always say about. Bobby as I recall. Fredi, just for me, hopefully learns a lot from all this.

10-80

October 6th, 2011
11:39 pm

Thanks much DOB, stellar work as always

N8

October 6th, 2011
11:40 pm

I find it interesting that Wren pretty much mirrored what most of the blog was saying all summer long. The offense was costing us games and eventually would cost the bullpen, by causing them to be oversused.

I really liked his response to being asked about Chipper saying that with a “young team”, etc…. with Wren making sure to point out that plenty of the veterans didn’t do their job either.

Good read DOB.

Thanks.

Who Me?

October 6th, 2011
11:41 pm

Good Stuff DOB, choice bloggage for this late post-season night while watching OTHER teams play. I read a lot of cryin’ in their milk here but I sure would like to see some fire from one or the other of these guys. Hate to say it but LP had his turn and it wasn’t pretty, so I can completely understand that one.

Q: What happens if the same thing goes down next year?

How safe will FG’s job be then?

Here’s to the offseason, may she be kind to us and bless us with more talent, and may the budget boys at Liberty find some extra bucks in our pockets this Christmas…

BFChris27

October 6th, 2011
11:42 pm

stizz

October 6th, 2011
11:42 pm

AAANNNNNNNNNNDDDDDDD THE YANKEES LOSE!

Efrim

October 6th, 2011
11:42 pm

Wow. Big upset. Texas is going to crush them. Just my opinion.

Let’s go Cards and Crew!

Kat

October 6th, 2011
11:43 pm

Oh tomorrow will be a nice day at work with all those Yankee fans :)

TnBrian

October 6th, 2011
11:44 pm

Way to go Tigers. Gotta root for them all the way now. Tanking out the Banks is always sweet to see.

BFChris27

October 6th, 2011
11:45 pm

I hope post season goes as follows….

D-Backs/Cards – NLCS
Tigers/Rangers – ALCS (just made official)

D-Backs/Tigers – WS (with D-Backs winning :) )

Soph

October 6th, 2011
11:46 pm

Me happy.

Thanks for the new blog, DOB.

richie

October 6th, 2011
11:47 pm

Yanks prove again that money cant buy a championship but it damn sure helps. You can also win and be broke (see Rays) or you could have some money and piss it away (see Braves).

Who Me?

October 6th, 2011
11:47 pm

The wonderful thing about Tiggers…….

(with a nod to the Pooh)

Efrim

October 6th, 2011
11:49 pm

As long as the Phillies don’t win, I could care less who wins this thing. Just get Philly out of there.

Actually, I don’t want the Cards to win either.

nolie

October 6th, 2011
11:49 pm

.Compentent leadership would be asking the questions: is this worth $14m a season and could that $14m be better spent ?…RaleighDawg

management, competent or not, has nothing to do at this point. he is signed to a contract. What the devil do you think can change?

Brownie

October 6th, 2011
11:51 pm

Jesus, you say Fredi is a robot. Read his comments again: he levels straightforward comments about McCann, Prado, and that only Freeman and Uggla were hitting anything. He also says that at the end everyone sucked, including himself! How many other managers, other than maybe Guillen, would say that?

He also openly questioned his decisions on Heyward vs. Constanza. Pretty candid, all in all. Face it, you’re not gonna see any manager be completely open with his thoughts.

One thing they talk about: the hitting never seemed to be in sync. I’d like to know specifically what Parrish’s hitting philosoply was, and how the players tried (or didn’t try) to carry it out. LOTS of bad at bats.

All season long, our starters were logging higher pitch counts than our competitors. We never saw anyone totally in control at the plate – we got ourselves out too easily, and the other team made our pitchers work for outs.

Chop Chop

October 6th, 2011
11:52 pm

I’d like to see the Tigers win it all, but I’d settle for the Rangers, Brewers, or D-Backs.

I could live with the Phils winning it.

I will put my head through a wall if the Cards pull it off.

Efrim

October 6th, 2011
11:54 pm

BTW – I really liked Brian Anderson, Ron Darling and Smoltzie’s broadcast. Always been a big fan of Darling, and I like Brian Anderson’s play by play more then EJ Jr.

Efrim

October 6th, 2011
11:56 pm

I want Wren to come out and say I’m bringing back all 25 of em.

richie

October 6th, 2011
11:57 pm

Chipper had his chance to prove that he could still get it done when his team needed him most. We NEEDED him down the stretch. McCann was NOWHERE to be found nor was Prado. Chip had chances to change crucial games we ended up losing. He cant. The leadership wasnt there. Best case scenario is he rethinks and retires. Reality: he will play roughly 100 games. Hit the 15 day DL once before the break and at least twice after, hit about 260 and hit about 15 homers. We wont win with this current nucleus of players (Freeman, Kimbrell, Hanson, Uggla, Bourn) as long as he is here. I just pray we can get Bourn signed to a deal. The only sure thing in our outfield.

Billy

October 6th, 2011
11:57 pm

We don’t have any big needs said Wren. Total BS..does he think all fans are stupid.
Fredi G compared to Francona..what a joke..The Braves are lost in he!! with two idiots running this team…
Go Cards! Go Tigers, Go Diamondbacks…Braves have already gone to pot. Thanks to Fredi & Wrens.

Efrim

October 6th, 2011
11:59 pm

The remaining Alex Rodriguez contract: 12:$29M, 13:$28M, 14:$25M, 15:$21M, 16:$20M, 17:$20M

- $10M signing bonus ($2M paid upon approval, $1M paid each Jan. 15, 2009-2013, $3M paid Jan. 15, 2014)
- $30M marketing agreement based on home run milestones ($6M each for reaching 660, 714, 755 and tying and breaking major league HR record)

rc35

October 6th, 2011
11:59 pm

It was reassuring to get past the cap-tipping and see some real analysis of the season. I appreciate the fact that the Braves don’t rip their players during the season, but a bit more honesty would be refreshing. Thanks for the report!

Tom O'Hawke

October 7th, 2011
12:01 am

Ya know, this was my first “first”. Nearly 5 years being on here. Call me a minor leaguer getting his first big league hit. — TnBrian

Brian, I hope DOB takes your post out of play and gives it to you as a souvenir. ;)

richie

October 7th, 2011
12:01 am

the yanks must be counting on the world ending in 2012 with those contract numbers

Billy

October 7th, 2011
12:01 am

White Sox hired Robin Venture as there Manager.

Hilltopper

October 7th, 2011
12:03 am

It seems the rosey glasses are still on. Chipper should be sent to an AL team where he can be a DH ans stay healthy(ier?) Lowe should be sent home. Saving $28 M on these two could surely buy a hitter or two. As for pitching, why not turn back the clock and let starters go as long as they can instead of automatically taking them out after 6? Remember the old refrain: “Spahn, Sain and a day of rain.” Yeah, I know it dates me but if you got 4 good starters let go every fourth day. It was done for many a year with good results.

Chop Chop

October 7th, 2011
12:04 am

Brian Anderson’s the best play-by-play guy we will hear in the playoffs, Efrim. Victor Rojas is good, too.

Oh, and Joe does a much better job when he’s not playing the homer role.

Doc Holliday (Freeman for Captain)

October 7th, 2011
12:04 am

The Evil Empire is down……..Phillies are next and I´ll be ready for 2012.

bravofan

October 7th, 2011
12:04 am

anyone see Tom Verducci get drenched in champagne/alcohol while interviewing Jose Valverde? It was sooooooo funny!!!!!!!!!!!!!

George Stein

October 7th, 2011
12:07 am

It would help if he emphasized patience and getting on base rather than battling, whatever that means. And I’d love to know what the heck situational hitting is. Why don’t they just instruct the players to hit well all the time?

Snotboogie

October 7th, 2011
12:09 am

Good read, DOB.
Eyes didnt quite glaze over, but was long and detailed.
Worth the wait.

Snotboogie

October 7th, 2011
12:12 am

The remaining Alex Rodriguez contract: 12:$29M, 13:$28M, 14:$25M, 15:$21M, 16:$20M, 17:$20M

And it was very appropriate that the season ended with him whiffing. Awesome.

Chop Chop

October 7th, 2011
12:12 am

Guys going nuts with the champagne after a postseason series clincher = the Verducci Effect

Doc Holliday (Freeman for Captain)

October 7th, 2011
12:12 am

Yankees look bad this series………not a 200 000 000.00 USD team IMO.

Jeter, Arod, Tex all looked bad.

Posada, Cano and their LF were the only onces that look good.

Martin is a clown.

Tip your hats to the Tigers..they made this Yankee team look very mortal. A Yankee team that went cruising from day one and the only stones they found on the road were the games against the Redsox before the Redsox started their freefall.

I give this series to the incredible knowledge about baseball Leyland has…….this guy is a true manager, man does he knows how to move his pieces around, never panic, be patient, trust your guys………he made everything look so smooth and easy………This guy against Larussa in the WS has to be a memorable WS……..

Snotboogie

October 7th, 2011
12:12 am

It would help if he emphasized patience and getting on base rather than battling, whatever that means.

Tomato – To-mah-to.

uga-brave

October 7th, 2011
12:13 am

DOB, great final post to the season.

been said many time before but let me echo, the everday crusading guy is the best in the business.

thanks agian DOB.

Around The Horn

October 7th, 2011
12:15 am

NO MORE RESPECT

I can’t say that I have any respect for what Fredi has to say anymore.

He may be a good and likable person, but he is surely inept as a manager.

And he should be fired!

Come on Frank, bite the bullet and eat the two remaining years left on Fredi’s contract — and FIRE FREDI!

Snotboogie

October 7th, 2011
12:15 am

If the Phils lose tomorrow the top 3 payrolls in baseball would’ve been eliminated and no team in the top 9 would remain in the hunt.

tiger297

October 7th, 2011
12:16 am

well the other blog hit 12K…I gotta get up early to fly to lexington so

when its sleepy time down south…

Doc Holliday (Freeman for Captain)

October 7th, 2011
12:17 am

Rodriguez and Tex looked like little bunnies, specially ARod………dangerous he is not anymore.

Gardner had a great series, the guy is a warrior, great ball slapper.

I noticed the incredible great defense both teams have………Braves are not close to them.

Its impossible to get a hit between 1B and 2B…………Cano will get to it and will throw you out at 1B

Snotboogie

October 7th, 2011
12:17 am

Well done to tiger, T for and Bat for finishing it up.
Meanwhile all the folks who were waiting in the tall grass just showed up en masse in here.

Billy

October 7th, 2011
12:19 am

Enter your comments here

Snotboogie

October 7th, 2011
12:20 am

Watch this blind guy throw a great ceremonial first pitch in yesterday’s NLDS game.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lv2xtXSMup0

Jb

October 7th, 2011
12:20 am

Same old BS..Fire Fredi.

Peter

October 7th, 2011
12:21 am

Well at least the World Series from Hell has been avoided.

Doc Holliday (Freeman for Captain)

October 7th, 2011
12:21 am

Snotboogie

October 7th, 2011
12:15 am

If the Phils lose tomorrow the top 3 payrolls in baseball would’ve been eliminated and no team in the top 9 would remain in the hunt.
´´+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Cardinals are No. 6 and Tigers are No. 8 in payrolls.

T for Texas

October 7th, 2011
12:26 am

Nice one, David.

The A Bomb – OUTCHOKED ®

October 7th, 2011
12:27 am

Hey Stizz…

Read what I wrote — IMPROVED TEAMS. NOT world beaters.

New York may lose Reyes but they played with real character after Collins called them out. They get Santana back.

San Francisco losing Beltran? He did crap for them. But they DO get Posey back. They will be improved just from that.

Pittsburgh — good young team and they should be more consistent with the major stumble after the Jerry Meals call.

IN MY OPINION — all those improved teams mean fewer victories for a Braves team that will be reeling most of next season. They won’t recover as long as Gonzalez is at the helm. Add in a brutal interleague schedule and I’m calling 80-90 losses next season — unless either (a) Gonzalez is gone or (b) the roster seriously upgrades. I see neither.

Snotboogie

October 7th, 2011
12:28 am

Cardinals are No. 6 and Tigers are No. 8 in payrolls.

I dont know which list this was – but I looked at two CBS and one other and they both showed Tigers at 10 – 105.7M and Cards after them.

Poorbrave

October 7th, 2011
12:29 am

Hire Greg Walker hitting Coach……..that would be a 100% improvementand a great start for need year.

Doc Holliday (Freeman our go to guy)

October 7th, 2011
12:30 am

I would like to see the Tigers go against the Cards on a rematch.

It wouldnt bother me to have ARZ give everybody a surprise, but that aint happening.

Texas is a great team that has worked hard and deserves a ring.

I would be happy for any team but the Phillies to get that ring.

Very good teams all around…………..lots of good baseball still to be played.

Doc Holliday (Freeman our go to guy)

October 7th, 2011
12:32 am

Ray

October 7th, 2011
12:35 am

Need guys in outfield that can drive in runs like the playoff teams.JJ and Prado for Bruce or Quinitin or Markias.

veer

October 7th, 2011
12:36 am

We could have been in playoffs right now. Sucks to see other teams playing in October. I planned to take time off work and now this sucks.
Bobby cox would have found a way to win us a game.
Troy Glaus would have found a magic to win us a game.

Hinske should been given more playing time.

Snotboogie

October 7th, 2011
12:40 am

Braves $100,716,692

Really?
Ok.

Frediot

October 7th, 2011
12:43 am

Didn’t you all be seeing Prados battling soz muchos out there? this be why I kept him in 2 hole even though his legs were shot. I wanted us to collapsing on my terms.

Around The Horn

October 7th, 2011
12:45 am

WREN’S LINEUP FAILURES

The thing that bothers me most about Frank Wren, as far as the current Braves team and lineup goes — apart from first hiring and now keeping Fredi Gonzalez on as the manager (which remains a woefully bad decision) — are the decisions he made to trade Jeff Francoeur and Yunel Escobar.

Had Wren exhibited a bit of patience both Jeff and Yunel would now be productive Braves players who fill the very spots that Frank, according to his own words, needs to address this offseason.

Tom O'Hawke

October 7th, 2011
12:47 am

These are the payrolls I came up with:

1) Yankees-202.7mm
2) Phillies-173mm
10) Tigers-105.7mm
11) Cardinals-105.4mm
13) Rangers-92.3mm
17) Brewers-85.5m
25) D-Backs-53.6mm
29) Rays-41mm

uga-brave

October 7th, 2011
12:53 am

tiger, your posts on the final page of the last blog were pretty darn good.

Brave4life- tough pill to swallow

October 7th, 2011
12:53 am

Wow, Frank Wren was straight forward

Frank Wren respect level just went up in my book

uga-brave

October 7th, 2011
12:55 am

openining night in the nhl. losing hockey again in atlanta is really gonna hurt this time.

Robards

October 7th, 2011
12:56 am

Enjoyed the blog, DOB. I was at Wrigley on or about 8/25 at the high point, when McCann hit 2 home runs and the Braves extended the lead to 10.5. I was at Busch on 9/9, when Kimbrel blew the save and the lead was reduced to 6.5. And the Cards went on to sweep. Braves don’t need to do much. Just need to remember the season is a marathon. Next year should be fun.

uga-brave

October 7th, 2011
12:57 am

openining new word.

veer

October 7th, 2011
1:09 am

IF Escobar was our shortstop we would have won last years Giants series and we would have made into the playoffs this year.
Just one trade ruined us.

BosnianBaller

October 7th, 2011
1:20 am

I think wren will make a big trade for an outfielder.I sense he his pretty pissed off

Bat Masterson

October 7th, 2011
1:34 am

DOB__

Excellent works as always, thanks

Plenty to mull over, take at face value, read betweens the lines, or blow off there,readers choice

And for leaving that last blog up, whether it just worked out that way, or you did it to let people that like to come talk it out, either way. Kudos

Ward (Enough Of Wren)

October 7th, 2011
1:38 am

Thanks for the article DOB. On Wren , Blah,Blah,blah blah………………..

Ward (Enough Of Wren)

October 7th, 2011
1:39 am

Guy’s don’t get your hopes on Wren too much…….

Ward (Enough Of Wren)

October 7th, 2011
1:45 am

I would go with Carlos Quentin,and Rollins if the Braves can get them both. I know I would try like hell to get them.

extremus

October 7th, 2011
1:51 am

An epic September swoon ended the 2012 season

Let’s hope that typo underneath the picture isn’t a harbinger of things to come; if history does repeat itself this team’s gonna have a fire sale, starting with the manager (who in my humble opinion should already be gone).

Ward (Enough Of Wren)

October 7th, 2011
1:59 am

How about 5 years of Wren,and gone too…..It’s not all Managers fault like most everyone buys into.Wren seems to sway a lot of people with his smooth talk. He should run for office…..

jed

October 7th, 2011
2:19 am

hire francona!

RemoW

October 7th, 2011
2:19 am

Someone suggested a Lowe for Carlos Lee trade. I like that idea. Bad money for bad money. But Lee did hit .275 with 94 RBIs. Regardless of what Shaun says RBIs count.

Ward (Enough Of Wren)

October 7th, 2011
3:14 am

Well all have a good one! I don’t always think I’m right,but I have some strong feelings on what happened last month. What has happened the last five years?Only a Wild Card to show for,and some tough times.I will always have high hopes,and will continue.peace out,and talk tomorrow.

Big Jake

October 7th, 2011
4:10 am

Tonight’s morons seem to have a Chipper fixation

Big Jake

October 7th, 2011
4:12 am

Gotta tell you Ward, I’m getting sort of tired of that foolish Wren rant.
We all know how you feel, many many many times now.

Big Jake

October 7th, 2011
4:18 am

Good night and good luck.

Stinger2

October 7th, 2011
4:29 am

The Braves played like douchebags in September.
Solution: The Braves need an enema.
Method that will work: Put a enema attachment on a douchebag, fill it with epsom salts and open the cutoff.

Stinger2

October 7th, 2011
4:54 am

A question to DOB: FW said “we don`t have that one big need”. Did he forget about the fact that the Braves had no meaningful contributions from either corner outfielders?
I believe there is a need. Your thoughts?

HotSkishkabob

October 7th, 2011
5:17 am

It was a rough ending to a tough year that was always closer than our record showed. We had the wins for a long time, but we were EAKING by the whole season. We need new owners who have a local stake and will offer a bigger payroll, but beyond that I think the organization’s earned a little good faith from the fans. I mean, accusing Wren of holding on to high-priced aging players too long based on Chipper is RIDICULOUS to anyone who remembers Smoltz and Glavine’s unceremonious dumpings. Both of which made me livid at the time, but were good baseball decisions in retrospect (even if they could have been handled better). And we have done nothing but pillage other teams in trades since Wren took over, anyone crying over the loss of Yunel, or Francoeur, or Vazquez (remember him?) are kidding themselves. Tough September, but we’ll be better next year and by the time the next hitting coach’s contract is up, Chipper will be showing the youngun’s how to hammer. GO BRAVES.

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