The meat of the comment sounded like a concession speech, which really wasn’t Chipper Jones’ intent. But when you play for a .500 team going into game No. 93 and the team ahead of you in first place is starting to resemble the one from last October, a sense of realism sets in.
“We’re not going to be sellers, I don’t think,” Jones said early Monday when asked about how the Braves should approach the trade deadline. “We’ve been buyers to this point, adding pieces here and there. But I think we’ve got our eyes toward next year and the year after, and whatever comes this year is gravy. I don’t mean that we’re waving the white flag this year by any means. But we got off to a relatively slow start, and the Phillies are what they are. They’re the world champs, they’re playing well right now and it’s going to be hard to catch them.”
The trade deadline is in 10 days. Depending on your level of optimism, the Braves are either in contention for the National League East, in contention for the wild-card spot or in contention for special early October fares to the Bahamas.
Do they buy, maybe giving up pitcher Javier Vazquez for another bat?
Do they sell, maybe giving up pitcher Javier Vazquez for another bat — for next April?
Does general manager Frank Wren stare at an 8×10 glossy of Yunel Escobar for several hours and hope an answer comes to him like some revelation in a burning bush (preferably before his head explodes)?
Does he do nothing of significance, which probably is the betting favorite and the smartest course of action? (It neither mortgages the future nor sends the wrong message to players and fans, given it’s a seller’s market right now.)
Wren isn’t saying what he’s going to do. I think because he doesn’t know what he’s going to do. I think because he doesn’t know how to categorize the team’s post-season hopes.
Question to Wren: buying or selling?
“There’s so many us who are still in this thing, one way or another.”
Question: OK. But buying or selling?
“We’re playing better. We feel good about the way we’re performing.”
OK. Let’s simplify this: Are you sellers?
“I don’t think we’ll be selling. I sure hope not. I mean, something drastic would have to happen for us to be selling.”
Solid pitching, improved hitting, and we still don’t know what to think. Yes – as Jones said, things look pretty good for next season. But it’s still July. Are you ready to shift your mindset to next April? Or have the past few seasons made that easier to accept?
They won again Monday — this time 11-3 over San Francisco. Suddenly they’re scoring and they’re winning (this makes eight out of 11). They’re now only 3 1/2 games behind San Francisco in the wild-card race. But that’s an eight-team scramble. Those things are iffy. In the division race, they’re still 6 1/2 games behind Philadelphia (which has won 13 of 14). Before the Braves got hot, they were only five back. Go figure.
It was early June when they shredded the blueprint. Since then, they’ve sent down Jordan Schafer, traded for Nate McLouth, called up Tommy Hanson, sent down Kelly Johnson, traded Jeff Francoeur for Ryan Church and watched Martin Prado turn into Rogers Hornsby The makeover is basically done.
Guarded optimism reigns.
“We’re not sellers – we’re not selling anything,” Bobby Cox said.
Jones said he’s encouraged.
“The lineup is better. We don’t have [easy] outs any more,” he said.
But the margin for error remains thin and the deficit in the division is growing, and Jones acknowledged, “When we play the really good teams, our margin for error is so small.”
The understanding being, they’re still not one of the really good teams and whatever comes this season is gravy. But they’re making it interesting.