They have a left fielder hitting .171 but turning down rehab assignments, a Japanese pitcher who looks out of his league, a catcher who can’t see, a legend who can’t throw and a rookie starter who’s on pace for over 200 strikeouts, which would be great if we were talking about Jordan Schafer as a pitcher, not a hitter.
Still bubbling over with enthusiasm about your Atlanta Braves?
They started the season 5-1. They were 6-14 since, heading into Wednesday night’s game at Florida. They dropped consecutive home games to the struggling New York Mets, and in Tuesday’s loss committed two errors and hit into three double plays. Manager Bobby Cox scooped up the remains of starting pitcher Kenshin Kawakami after five innings, which seemed wise given Kawakami was on a pace to throw 203.4 pitches.
If Kawakami were being paid by the pitch, his $23 million contract would seem like a bargain. Instead, it looks like the second cousin of Mike Hampton’s contract.
It’s only May. The possibilities are endless. Injuries heal. Hitters get hot. Bad luck evens out. Who knows? Maybe one day, somebody will even ship Brian McCann glasses that actually have two corrective lenses in them instead of one (as happened Tuesday).
But ask yourself this: Given that so much went right for the Braves over 14 straight seasons, did you ever think this might be the market correction?
“Eventually some good things have to start happening,” Chipper Jones said.
And then this: “I once told one of my good friends in baseball, ‘We’ll get ’em next time.’ Then he dropped an expletive and basically said, ‘Screw that, I wanted to get ’em this time.’ That’s how we all feel. We’re living for today. We’re hoping today is what turns it. It just seems when we put ourselves in a good situation, we self-destruct or something unlucky happens.”
Problem is, good baseball teams don’t self-destruct. Franchises certainly aren’t defined by luck. They are defined by personnel decisions, player development and, unfortunately, economic agendas.
If the Braves don’t turn it around, they will fail to reach the playoffs for the fourth straight season. That’s not luck. That’s definition.
The fizzled trades and free agent rejections of this past off-season are well known. Maybe expecting to make it back to October with so many second choices was too much to expect.
Garret Anderson — summoned after the Ken Griffey Jr. signing unraveled — has struggled with a calf injury. He rejected a minor-league assignment that was meant to help him find his swing. So he returned Tuesday against the Mets and went 0-for-4, stranded three base runners and hit into a double play. He was batting cleanup.
Does this sound like the backdrop for a turnaround?
The Braves rank 26th in the majors in runs, 23rd in hits, 24th in home runs and 27th in total bases. Defense has been mediocre. Overall, pitching has been solid. But Kawakami (1-4, 6.41 ERA) has been an early bust, Tom Glavine has yet to throw a pitch and reliever Blaine Boyer was punted to St. Louis two weeks ago.
Manager Bobby Cox reacts as he always does, with a positive: “We’re only 3 ½ back.”
General manager Frank Wren, who put this team together, harps on injuries. When asked if the season has been a letdown, he said: “We all feel like we’ve left some games out there we could’ve won if we had our full club together.”
There are built-in assumptions there. But assumptions go down easier when a team is coming off a string of post-seasons, not declining win totals. Maybe now, this is the norm.