It’s too early for despair, gloom and doom, over Braves

Amazin’, to quote Dr. Casey Stengel, the Florida Marlins come to Turner Field and take command. Three games in a row. A wipe-out. And it showed on the complexion of Frank Wren, who stepped on the elevator, looking neither right nor left. but glumly straight ahead. This was only the ninth game of the Braves’ season, but then again, these were the Marlins, who have been playing in a football stadium since they were born. A football stadium is a lousy place to play baseball at best — or should I say worst? — even though both teams are named for fish.

This is no occasion to engage in snobbery. The Marlins came into the major leagues 16 years ago. In that time they have played in two World Series’ and won them both, one with a manager who was retrieved from a farm in North Carolina. The Braves came to Atlanta in 1966 and have played in five World Series since. They won one, otherwise their fans have survived on a diet of division championship flags displayed above left field.

This has not been the best of preseasons. Spring training ran too long, mainly to work in the World Baseball Classic, a misnomer by any standard. Instead of conditioning under the eyes of their contracted team, so many were flitting about the world with one national team or another. Chipper Jones came home wounded. It appears that Jorge Campillo has punished his arm during the winter and WBC. Now the Red Sox’s Daisuke Matsuzaka blames his sore arm on the WBC.

Brian McCann displayed a patriotic view of it, “Honored,” he said, “to be playing for my country.” More to the point, playing for the commissioner, Bud Selig, and his union leader, Don Fehr. Publicly Bobby Cox speaks well of it. Privately, he wishes it would go away.

A few days ago the Braves were leading their division. The Marlins blew them out of the water and took over. The Braves’ prize was a weekend in Pittsburgh — all expenses paid. This is a team that seems to have more than its quota of vulnerable moving parts. They lost another infielder to another pulled something-or-other. Yunel Escobar came down injured, so the left side of the infield is in the hands of reserves.

The bullpen has come unraveled. Blaine Boyer finished the ’08 season with a 5.88 earned-run average. While the Marlins were in town, it was inflated to the monstrous number of 40.50. Peter Moylan, the gregarious Aussie, isn’t far behind, which may mean that he has tried to come back too soon from surgery. It will be mid-summer before Tim Hudson is ready again, and on the surface, there’s serious doubt that Tom Glavine will be of value.

All isn’t doom and gloom. There is some good news. Jeff Francoeur isn’t the Francoeur of old, but the new-model Francoeur. His swing is under control. He delivered twice against the Marlins and he doesn’t wince when he checks his batting average now. It was above .300 when the Braves left on this nine-game road trip. There was much wailing and groaning about the Mark Teixeira maneuvers, from Texas to Atlanta to LA Angels to the Yankees, after which all the Braves had to show for the five prospects they’d dispatched to Texas was Casey Kotchman, a journeyman first baseman. Well, get this: As the road trip began Kotchman was outhitting the Yankee Teixeira by more than l00 points.

All of us are inclined to leap to despair or exuberance too early in the season. When Joe Torre came to manage the Braves, he was undefeated for 13 games. They made the playoffs, then collapsed. This is not to say Frank Wren hasn’t got a plateful of frets, but if Bobby Cox can ever get all his gainful employs on the field in health, this is not a season to cast to the swine.

63 comments Add your comment

Tom Johnson

April 17th, 2009
10:13 pm

Furman, I have loved your column for 30+ yrs, but you are now showing that you are a true “Homer”. I would not be overly concerned either under normal circumstances. However, nothing is normal! Bobby, for some incredibly inane reason, is giving these bullpen pitchers way too long to come into a groove. They cost us last year(check the blown saves), and they look absolutely Class A’ish this year. I know it is early, but if he doesn’t run the current pen out of Atlanta, he will be looking at a 70-75 win season which puts us in 4th or 5th place in the division. He loves being loyal to his players, but when they consistantly go out and under acheive, it is time for the loyalty to end. I would like to know if other Atlantans feel the same as I do. Thank you.

intellibird

April 17th, 2009
11:45 pm

Agree with Tom Johnson. How about bringing up the Hanson kid and/or Reyes and using somebody (Kawakami/Vasquez) for middle relief. Even Mike Gonzalaez has been giving me indigestion everytime he pitches. Pitchers need to throw strikes and please, for the love of G*D, would our batters please stop swinging at first pitches.

We needed base runners in the 9th inning and every idiot at the plate is swinging away. We need to hold Terry Pendelton and Rodger whatever accountable.

The Grinch

April 18th, 2009
12:56 am

I agree with you in principle, Mr. Bisher; the WBC/Selig both need to disappear and the Braves aren’t hopeless. In fact, I think they’ll win the division if Bobby leaves Moylan alone for a bit and they trade for a middle reliever. However, I feel the need to point out a Dolphin is a mammal, not a fish (unless you’re referring to the Mahi Mahi, a.k.a. Dolphin…but you weren’t).

The Grinch

April 18th, 2009
1:25 am

I apologize, sir; that came across much snarkier than I intended. Your journalistic skills are beyond reproach. I typed it with a smile but it probably didn’t come across that way.

BeachGaBulldog

April 18th, 2009
1:59 am

As far as that WBC garbage, I didn’t watch one second of it. In fact, I wish it would go away forever. As for the Braves, I will first say that I have NEVER been a fan of Bobby Cox. He doesn’t know how to handle a pitching staff, and I have been saying that ever since Game 6 of the 1991 World Series against Minnesota. Alejandro Pena is pitching great, and “genius” decides to bring in Charlie “Creampuff” Leibrandt to face Kirby Puckett. I was sitting with a bunch of friends who weren’t big baseball fans and I told them, “We just lost this game”. I had seen enough of both players to know that Kirby would crush the ball, and he did. Game over. Ever since then, I have hated Bobby Cox.
He is definitely way too loyal to his players. Another thing he does is he will bring in someone like Boyer who will get his brains beaten in(for Christ’s sake, a 40 ERA), and the next night Cox will bring him out again. The next game he will do it again. And don’t get me started on Chipper. A sore thumb? Are you &%%^*^ kidding me? I knew he wouldn’t go the first week of the season without taking himself out of a game.

1995BRAVESHAD BROTHAS WORLDCHAMPS

April 18th, 2009
8:04 am

FOR ALL YOU HICKS WHO WERE DOGGING TERRANCE MOORE ABOUT THE BRAVES NEED MORE BROTHERS ON THE TEAM REMEMBER 1995 HELLO.

PHILLY GOT RYAN HOWARD AND MVP JIMMY ROLLINS THEY BROTHERS AND PHILLY ARE THE WORLD CHAMPS.

YOU SEE WITH THESE KLAN TEAMS WEVE BEEN PLAYING WITH HAS GOTTEN US NOTHING

ND

April 18th, 2009
8:26 am

1995BRAVESHAD…You are an idiot.

richbrave

April 18th, 2009
8:41 am

The sky is falling. The sky is falling. Thanks for pointing out the obvious BISHER.

Greg

April 18th, 2009
8:42 am

You summed it up perfectly. This is a 500 team at best. One or two injures like they always have…can’t even get through 10 games… with the wrong people and they are less than 500….punch and judy with terrible relief pitching is not a formula for success.

turkey

April 18th, 2009
9:51 am

If Fredi comes back to Atlanta not only his entire coaching staff but the Marlin scouts also have to be here. Except for McCann and Francoeur the pickings are slim. Mark it. The Braves will finish no higher than 4th.

BravesAreDone

April 18th, 2009
10:31 am

It’s amazing how they keep counting on Chipper Jones…well if Chipper will just stay healthy blah blah blah…the man does NOT stay healthy through a season EVER anymore. Then they give him a huge contract. The team has no cleanup hitter, only a couple of decent to good starting pitchers and a scary bullpen at best. And oh yeah they don’t have a real leadoff hitter either. Plus a center fielder obviously not yet ready for the bigs on both defense and offense. I gave up on this team before the season started after the poor offseason moves.

Dr. Phil

April 18th, 2009
10:37 am

Bud Selig is the “Michael Adams” of baseball, and the WBC is his version of the “UGA Foundation.” I spent a week watching the Braves in Florida and believed that they were going to have a chance at post-season play. I am not so sure now. Turner Field is a beautiful place, and the Braves will play some good baseball at times this season. I dropped my hundred dollars there last week, and that will do it for a while.

Braves73

April 18th, 2009
11:27 am

Tom Johnson – You my friend, are absolutely correct. Bobby is TOO loyal to his players, even to the point of collapse. The bullpen was and still is a HUGE concern for this years team. The need to blow it up, and start over right now while the season has just begun. If it were up to me, I would keep a short leash on Gonzalez as closer and mix in Soriaon (while keeping his 8th inning duties). Moylan will be alright, he just can’t pitch on back to back nights…yet. Our main concern will be the 5th & 6th inning/spot. Buddy is ok at that spot, but Bennett, O’flaherty, Boyer, Campillo all need to go. They have the ability to make these changes with guys at AAA that can fill these spots. They were impressed with Medlin, they have Acosta (who is an upgrade in my opinion, and Charlie Morton. PLEASE DON’T WAIT UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE!

Mitch

April 18th, 2009
7:12 pm

While I know baseball is 162 games, and we have thus far only played eleven, if it isn’t yet time to “panic”, the time has come for definite “concern”.

Chipper is out. (Again) Yunel is injured, the bullpen looks extremely vulnerable, and the team ERA is higher than the national debt.

Yes, I remember 1992, when the team was seven games out of first place, and in last place, after a loss in Philadelphia, in late
May. We went to New York, spanked the then hapless Mets twice, and were on our way. (Shows you I’ve been a Braves fan for a long time if I remember that).

The problem now is, that except for Washington, we have three other teams in our division that are capable of making the postseason. The Marlins look very good. The Mets have a lot of talent, and the Phillies are the World Champs. I do not think this Braves team can park itself 9 1-2 games out of first in July as we did in 1991, and ten games out of first in August, as we did in 1993, and rally to make the postseason. The reason? We dont have Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine in their primes anymore. (We technically still have Tom, but who knows if he will ever pitch again, and if he does, he’s 43 years old) We used to do things like win thirteen games in a row (In 1992) or fifty five out of our last eighty three games, (In 1991) This team, would need to climb the mountain with consistent play all season, and not, bad for one half, and then a burning hot streak. I dont think this team will go on those kinds of streaks anymore. We are a potentially good club, but not like that.

I think we need to turn it around soon. Yes, it’s early, but we need to stand up to the big boys, and play well against the Mets and Phils and home, and at least, 500 on the road. The way this team will make the wild card is to do things like win in the high 40s to 50 wins at home,and play 500 on the road. If we dont do that, we wont make it.

Okay, long post. I’m done. Early, yes. Too early to “panic”? Probably. Not too early, however, to be “concerned”. We need to play better, and soon.

Mitch

7

April 18th, 2009
8:19 pm

It may be to early for you Mr Bisher but the Braves are the same as last 3 years. Same BS!

Time for Cox to retire and bring in Ned Yost and Leo Mazzone back. Mr Wren has proved that he’s not the right man for the job. This is the same crap over and over.

robert

April 18th, 2009
9:16 pm

Think goodness for Washington, the braves will have more losses than every other team in national league.At least 90-95 losses!

Charlie

April 18th, 2009
9:23 pm

No…it’s not time to panic yet. With this collection of ball players, there will (always) be plenty of time for that. Schafer is definitely NOT ready to play at this level. He is “deer in the headlights” at the plate, a made-to-order rally killer at the plate. He’s surely not ready to be a starter at this level. His defense is poor. Lots of balls over his head, and then he heads (too late)into the wall. Really poor, defensively. He’s a liability with the glove, as Kelly Johnson continues to be. (His “sun” excuse was just that…an excuse for choking a sure DP). The Braves bullpen is a disaster. That includes Mike Gonzales…terrible mechanics…too many moving parts…can’t field his position, falling so hard to the 3rd base side. His commmand and control is shakey. He slows his body down so much, he telegraphs his off speed stuff. Worst part is, he’s supposed to be the best of this bullpen. Chipper…since 2003 he’s perpetually hurt. He might as well be a coach. The Braves are a poor collection of mediocre talent. If they are lucky, they will finish ahead of the Nationals. Everyone else in the division will pound on them. It’s going to be a long season. To be competitive with the players the Braves have, well, that’s impossible. Once again this year, I purchased MLB Extra Innings package, to watch Braves’ games. Bad move. I won’t make that mistake again.

TROTTINGHOME

April 18th, 2009
9:45 pm

it’s over boys and girls

Pat

April 18th, 2009
9:48 pm

My biggest concern is that the Braves lack discipline. They are not disciplined at the plate and, in the field, often failed to make the routine plays (see Kelly Johnson and Garret Anderson). We never even consider trying to manufacture a run, the Braves always just sit back and wait for someone to try and hit a home run. The bullpen is a disaster–that goes without saying. But somewhere, somehow, someone take a walk, steal a base, sacrifice to third. Do the little things that good teams do to win.

Arthur

April 18th, 2009
9:54 pm

Mr. Bisher,

I hope you are right. However consider the following: Gonzales, Sorieno, and Moylan are all nursing repaired arms. Moylan has pitched in 6 of the last ten games. Do Cox and McDowell need a calculator? We lack good right handed power, especially when Chipper is out. We have a rookie center fielder who lacks defensive and offensive experience. He needs a year at triple A. Blanco has more experience and is better in both categories. Our weaknesses are obvious? Why do we see so much left handed pitching?? Duh. We have so many left handed batters. KJ is a fair hitter, but a terrible clutch fielder, Prado is better. Prado is also a right handed bat.

At this moment we have a great AAA team.

Love your articles, but do not agree this time?

Just curious, how old are you??

Arthur

Kenny Gannon

April 18th, 2009
11:16 pm

I know it’s early but I bet if you check the record books you’ll find that teams that start out of the gate hot like the Marlins often win their divisions and do very well. And teams like the Braves who start out mediocre and now losing 5 straight often continue in that mediocre mode. They’re too injury prone and their bullpen is a mess. It’s not Cox’s fault but I sure wish he’d retire. Nothing will change till he does. This is another weak team with no power and no bullpen. Looks centerfield is iffy too. This team lacks talent. They may have heart but they are a third tier team. As many are saying, thank goodness for the Nationals.

Skip Van Weiren

April 19th, 2009
2:58 am

Too early to panic kids. We only don’t have a real cleanup hitter, no bullpen or manager that realizes baseball is not played like it was in 1991. Why is everyone so nervous? Right? Uh….. right?

Ben

April 19th, 2009
5:38 am

The World Baseball Classic is and was awesome.

Ben

April 19th, 2009
5:39 am

But I think I agree with everything else you were saying, Mr. Bisher.

jc_dawgs

April 19th, 2009
7:07 am

You want to hear why it is far from over?

Here is why…..

Lowe…Jurjjens…Vasquez…Hanson and Hudson.

That will be our rotation in August and I’d put it up against any in the majors.

If the Braves can just hang in there and not fall too far back before then…they could make a run.

It’s all about pitching.

WILLSTER

April 19th, 2009
7:17 am

ISAID BEFORE THE FIRST PITCH OF THE 09 SEASON THE BRAVES WOULD FINISH 4TH ,I WAS RIGHT AS USUAL, THE BRAVES PAY CHIPPER 40 MILLION TO PLAY 1OO GAMES,BUT THEY CANT PAY SMOLTZ 5MILLION TO REHAB ARM,REMBER THESE DATES JUNE 28,29.30 2009 THIS IS WHEN THE REDSOX INVADE TURNER FIELD IGUARANTEE SMOLTZ WILL BE HERE , IGUARANTEE HE WILL BEAT THE SORRY A SS BRAVES, FIRE FRANK WREN, AND BOBBY COX/

WILLSTER

April 19th, 2009
7:18 am

Enter HIRE BACK LEO MAZZONEyour comments here

fieldofdreams

April 19th, 2009
8:34 am

I’m not worried, because I never expected anything from these mediocre bums. I’m trying to stay in Frank Wren’s court, but apparently he’s WREN OVER HIS HEAD. This season becomes interesting, however, when: 1. Braves trade several current starters for Jake Peavy. Kelly Johnson is a stiff, as are Jeff Francoeur, Matt Diaz, and Garret Anderson. Feel free to toss in Jojo Reyes. 2. Promote Jason Heyward and Tommy Hanson immediately. 3. Offer Chipper a trade to a contender by mid-season. Someone in the AMERICAN LEAGUE can use a brilliant hitter, who can no longer stand the day to day stress of playing the field. Not only that, Chipper is a cork in the bottle of whatever new identity the Braves will assume. The team needs to move on. 4. Politely inform Mr. Cox that his services are no longer needed. This is an ugly situation that could turn disastrous, if somebody doesn’t move, and move quick.

chump Change

April 19th, 2009
8:59 am

We may not look like a discount team,but our performance on the feild prove’s it.The braves need to spend some money.

pete

April 19th, 2009
9:21 am

BRING BACK THE CRACKERS!

Braves fan from Curacao

April 19th, 2009
9:59 am

The Braves have to get rid of Jo-Jo Reyes. He’s no good. The Braves made a right decision to let Boyer go. He was a total liability. Bring up Tommy Hanson. Let’s try to bounce back and beat the Marlins and Phillies.

1995BRAVESHAD BROTHAS WORLDCHAMPS

April 19th, 2009
10:02 am

ONCE AGAIN TERRENCE MOORE WAS RIGHT BRING BACK EDGAR JERMAINE DYE SHEFFIELD JD.DREW ANDREW JONES MARK LEMKE KEVIN MILLWOOD. ANYTHING IS BETTER THAN THIS PIECE OF CRAP THAT`S SO-CALLED PLAYING.

CHIPPER LARRY JONES YOU MIGHT AS WELL GONE UP TO BOSTON WITH JOHN SMOLTZ,CAUSE THE BRAVES ARE SHOT TO HELL.

Ed

April 19th, 2009
10:03 am

1991 is 18 years ago. Why do they continue paying Pendleton? Why do they have to go to Texas to find hitting instruction? Please keep Diaz in left field and use Anderson as the hitting coach.

John

April 19th, 2009
10:49 am

New owner, new GM,new field manager– these are the only answers to the current, intractable quagmire.

Braves73

April 19th, 2009
11:02 am

I agree with all of the posts in reference to “it being too early to press the panic button”, BUT there are clear signs that need to be addressed RIGHT NOW! If Bobby thinks that things will just “work themselves out”, then we will be in 4th place with very little chance of recovery. The challenge with Bobby is this, it’s not “the Braves of old” anymore (that had enough veteran talent/winners/proven commodities for him to take a “sit back metality”). Bobby is no longer suited this type of team, what I mean by that is we need a youn, aggressive manager, that can do more with less. A manager that will not waiver on making tough decisions with veterans and put the best players on the field for success. It’s time for change.

Poorbrave

April 19th, 2009
11:07 am

If you were (GM) building a major league team which player (star) on the Braves team would you pick to build your team around? Think about it and give your answer. 1….2. 3…

Braves73

April 19th, 2009
11:21 am

Poorbrave – 1.)Jordan Schafer – Before the whole steriod issue he was one the highest ranking players in the Braves system…he can have an immediate impact with his speed, defense, and eventually will be a leadoff hitter that will set the table for the rest of the offense. Upside +++++
2.) Tommy Hanson – Excellent (number 1 starter) stuff, but needs innings/seasoning in order to “learn how to pitch” and avoid being rushed to the majors Upside – unlimited
3.) Jason Heyward – All the tools needed to be successful in the majors, should be on the club right now, needs to be promoted ASAP.

Toearlytopanicbravefan

April 19th, 2009
11:55 am

I am in concurrence with most of the bloggers. Bobby Cox should consider retirement, (at least from th e braves!). Chipper needs to be traded to the American League where he doesn’t need to field the ball. He can still hit at least sometimes from the left side of the plate. He never could really hit well from the right. (I know he is the defending NL batting champ and he has been a terrific switch hitter.) The bullpen is in dissarray again. Bobby seemed confused in the Florida meltdown. He did not appear to know who he wanted called into the game. Not that it would have made a real difference! Jarrett Anderson should have retired with the Angels. Bring in the brothers (that can play). Acosta in the bullpen might help. Until major changes happen I will be joining Bobby Cox with a wait and see what happens attitude.

southbeachdietfreak

April 19th, 2009
12:01 pm

Ok, guys.

It may not be time to panic, but I feel compelled to point out some obvious things.

This team does not have the depth to be a condtender. Consider that when their best players get hurt, they get mired in a losing streak. Additionally, the bullpen is showing its true form yet again at its inablility to get people out. This is not a stab at anyone’s heart, whether they’re putting forth the effort, but the fact is, this team is not built to be a playoff team. If there’s anyone to blame, the front office is the culprit. For whatever reason (recession, or just plain greed) the management has seen fit to tighten their belts, preventing the Braves from being able to compete for quality players, something they’re sufficiently lacking in.

I think Bobby Cox is a good manager. I think his players are doing their best…. but I think management needs to step up and provide more to payroll in order to be able to compete for top-level talent. Otherwise, I think this team is in for several more underachieving seasons. Just my observation.

Reality

April 19th, 2009
12:27 pm

And the undisputed winner of the internet poster with the lowest I.Q. goes to 1995Braveshad…..

Hey moron, turn off your cap locks key.

Observation

April 19th, 2009
12:28 pm

In other news, Chipper Jones hurt himself sleeping today. He’ll be out another 4 weeks.

braves70

April 19th, 2009
12:58 pm

The sad part to me is that the Braves are now like a stale, outdated pastry item. This is essentially the same movie we have seen for the last four years and nobody is willing to change things. I for one have grown quite tired of seeing reruns of poor decisions by Cox, quirk injuries to Chipper, a bullpen full of insufficient talent, and a front office that just repeats the same mistakes. I would like to thank Cox, Chipper, Glavine, Schuerholz & Wren for their past glories and efforts but kindly ask them all to move on somewhere else. We need a new look and a new direction.

alsim

April 19th, 2009
1:16 pm

It’s beginning to look a lot like 2008…

when does football start?

.

Dorothy Davis

April 19th, 2009
1:19 pm

It is a fact that Bobby Cox does not have a clue about pitching. He continues to bring in the same pitchers that cost us game after game. And ignores the ones that have a decent record. Whats with that? As for saying that the team cannot win without Chipper in the lineup, you might as well get used to losing. Chipper’s body is not in baseball shape, for whatever reason, and he will be out with injurys all season long. He has just not put in the work he needed to play a full season. I have been a Braves fan forever, but realize that it is time for Bobby to go and bring up some young talent to turn things around this year.

Hillbilly Deluxe

April 19th, 2009
2:17 pm

This column was a couple of days ago but things don’t really look any better now than they did then.

The Wren and Stimpy Show

April 19th, 2009
2:48 pm

Can anybody second the fact that we need Prado in as an everyday player. He is our Mark Derosa of the team we need to find him playing time no matter what.

D.W.

April 20th, 2009
9:10 am

Sorry Furman, I disagree. I knew the Braves were going to be the same old Braves of the last few years after the 3rd game of the season. They played like the punks they have become. Over the past few years, they’ve allowed good teams to punk them out time and time again and things have not changed and won’t change until some changes are made. They Braves need a new strong leader, not a cheerleader in the dugout.

Kelley

April 20th, 2009
9:55 am

Who suggested to use Vazquez for middle relief? Didn’t he strike out 8 yesterday? Isn’t he like second in the NL in strikeouts?
Those of you calling for Hanson, I think you will get your wish sooner than later.

I agree totally, way too early to panic. I wasn’t surprised at how well the Marlins played, I heard Bobby in an interview in spring training raving about their pitching, and yes, I for one thinks Bobby sure knows what he is talking about.

Anyone else notice that the Braves do better w/ Chipper? Let’s pray he stays healthy, as relevant a term as that may be for Chipper.

shelby dawkins

April 20th, 2009
10:37 am

The Marlins showed right away what kind of team this is. When will the Braves ever realize that they play every game with us like it’s the seventh game of the World Series? Dont they remember 1997? This team
has totally given up! I feel betrayed and will consider cancelling my MLB package too.

Skeezix

April 20th, 2009
11:23 am

We have a mediocre team and we don’t need 100 more games to figure that out. Why? Because the starting rotation is at best #3, but more likely #4 or #5, in the division. The bully is just awful. You can’t win without a strong bully. Couple that with an average offense and we are in for another long, frustrating season.