Braves’ problem is they can’t afford even one bad week

This is umpire Bill Hohn, who doesn't seem to like Bobby Cox much (he ejected him again Wednesday) and doesn't care that the Braves have slipped in the wild-card race. (AP photo)

This is what happens when you dig a hole in June.

Over the last the seven days, the Braves have two wins, four losses and an off day. That doesn’t qualify as a major slide. But the results illustrate how difficult of a position they’ve put themselves in. Philadelphia has blown open an eight-game lead in the National League East. The Phillies also just added Cy Young winner Cliff Lee to the starting rotation in a trade with Cleveland.

I guess getting a Cy Young winner instead of Roy Halladay qualifies as a consolation prize. Folks, that ship has sailed.

The wild-card race is almost as daunting. The Braves are only four games back of wild-card leader San Francisco. That wouldn’t be a big problem if the Giants were in first and the Braves were in second. But it’s not that simple.

Before losing four of their last six — including the first two games of a series to Florida, one of the teams they’re chasing — the Braves were tied for third, three games back of then-leader Colorado. Now in dropping four games back of San Francisco, which in itself is no big deal, they’re tied for fifth (and sixth) place. Milwaukee is only a game behind them in seventh.

Actually, the Braves are closer in the wild-card standings to the eighth-place Mets (two games) than they are the Giants (four). We all thought the Mets were dead. So where does that put the Braves?

That’s the difficult thing about wild-card races — it’s often not the number of games behind in the standings that matters as much as the number of teams you’re battling. You can’t expect/project/hope every other team loses because they’re all playing each others. There’s no exact formula. But in a sense, a four-game deficit in a six-to-eight team pack seems almost as bad as an eight-game deficit in second place.

What this all means now is what it meant before: The Braves have to do something very unlikely to make the playoffs. They need to sweep some series. They also can’t afford to lose any ground — and actually need to gain — despite an upcoming stretch of the schedule, when they play Los Angeles and Philadelphia 10 times in 15 games. The Dodgers have the best record in baseball. The Phillies might be in that position before long — they’ve won 19 of their last 23.

The numbers are the numbers. But right now the National League wild-card winner is projected to win 88 games. The Braves are 51-50, which means they would need to go 37-24 the rest of the season. That’s .607 baseball. It’s not like that can’t be done, given the way they’ve mostly played over the past month. But have another 2-4 week and watch how harder things get.

Sorry. Didn’t mean to ruin your morning.

157 comments Add your comment

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 30th, 2009
7:31 am

The curse of Mark Bradley strikes again. Made fun of the Mets and how bad their GM was compared to Wren. Since then they have been streaking and the Braves have been falling. I don’t see them overcomeing the number of wildcard teams in front of them. On top of that, a couple of those teams have made trades to improve.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 30th, 2009
7:32 am

Jeff Schultz

July 30th, 2009
7:36 am

Bank — I can only defend my own bad predictions. (Program note: Weekend Predictions just around the corner! We now resume commenting.)

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 30th, 2009
7:45 am

Bill Hohn makes my gaydar chart go from yellow (elevated) to orange (high).

rb

July 30th, 2009
7:48 am

i agree it is an uphill climb for the playoffs and games like last night don’t help. two things about that, what’s up with bobby cox sporting the catcher’s mit in the dugout the last two nights? also, that homplate umpire needs to be disciplined by the league. he clearly has it in for the braves and did anyone see the fist pump with the marlins catcher after the last pitch of the game? i was wondering why chipper was hanging out in the dugout with that look on his face after the game was over!!!

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 30th, 2009
7:50 am

Jeff, since it’s just me and you do you think the Braves should be sellers now. I think they should stockpile some young talent the next couple of days.

Mrs. Chanandler Bong

July 30th, 2009
8:01 am

What was up with the fist pump Bill Hohn gave the Marlins catcher last night?

ltdbrave

July 30th, 2009
8:08 am

Well the Braves are showing the type of team they really are. When push comes to shove and they must win games, they just fold. All of those wins since the All-Star break are going down the drain. The same players are doing the hitting and I am not talking about McCann, Jones or McLouth. Florida just took a 2 game lead over the Braves when the Braves could have really distinguished themselves as a contender.

Jeff Schultz

July 30th, 2009
8:11 am

RB — I’ll say this about the Braves-Hohn thing. If I were an umpire, I’d hate working Braves games because Cox is constantly complaining about ball-strike calls. Most know it’s coming and can deal with it. Hohn seemingly has an issue. And yeah, bad call last night.

The Grinch

July 30th, 2009
8:13 am

Despite proving himself one of the better GM’s in baseball right now, Wren is already under a firestorm from the ignorant portion of the Braves’ fan base (about 65%). If he started “selling” right now those morons would build a gallows in the blue lot of Turner Field. Besides, who would he sell? The fantastic rotation he’s built is under contract for further seasons when we can actually utilize their abilities. Chipper has a veto. Trading McCann or Escobar would be asinine. We raped the Pirates for McClouth; expecting to do the same to someone else with him again is unlikely. Nobody else outside the farm has any value. And for God’s sake stop with the “KJ, Jo-Jo and Norton” poo-poo platter for “other team’s superstar” nonsense.

Ever since Schaeffer, Francine and KJ torpedoed the first two months, this has already been a rebuilding season. Let’s see what happens with the wild card. If it doesn’t work, we can get a power bat in the offseason with Hudson’s option money (provided Wren’s smart enough not to pick it up, which I believe he is), put Medlen in Huddy’s spot, Heyward in RF and Campillo in the long relief role and VOILA! We have a much improved team, WORLDS above the last three of JS’ tenure. Give the man a chance. Nobody has done more with less.

Jeff Schultz

July 30th, 2009
8:14 am

Bank — I’d be surprised if Kelly Johnson isn’t dealt because I don’t see him back here next year. But the only thing that would qualify as a “sell” is Vasquez for a bat, and I don’t see it happening. I think front office will be content keeping this team for next year, with a few changes, but those can be made in winter. I say that unless some team really blows them away in the 24 hours with a trade offer.

FSUBrad

July 30th, 2009
8:14 am

If they lose today, they’ve got to send either Gonzo or Soriano to: a) save a little cash, b) get a prospect or two. They both are pending FA’s, only 1 likely will be back next season anyhow. I’d even like to see them go ahead & ship Javy at that point too. 4 games may not sound like a lot, but there are too many quality teams in the mix. Then again, they can wait a couple more weeks & see if they can get something for any of these 3 via the waiver process in August…

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 30th, 2009
8:22 am

I agree FSUBrad. Since guys like Gonzo, Soriano are FA, there is no way that they resign here. I’d say Gonzo is gone. Also, I think Javy has a little more than one year on his contract. Two things with Javy, we will not resign and he is pitching much better than his career numbers. I think we have to trade him. I make take a chance and keep Soriano and re-sign him. I think the Braves could get some quality for Javy & Gozo.

BravesAreDone

July 30th, 2009
8:30 am

I’ve been using my name on here for a long time…and nothing has changed…they’re done, and have been done for a long time for this season. Just isn’t going to happen once again this year.

FSUBrad

July 30th, 2009
8:40 am

Bank, yes Javy has another year left. The rotation is crowded once Hudson comes back, unless the Braves simply buyout Hudson & don’t bring him back at 12 mill next season. I honestly see that happening at this point. No offense to Hudson, but $12 mill is way too much for a guy coming off major surgery. The $1 mill buyout is a no-brainer, unless Hudson takes a major paycut.

Soriano’s expensive & has significant value. I’d love to see him get some postseason experience & then come back in 2010. I see Kelly being the other piece moved by tomorrow or during waiver process…

bali smith

July 30th, 2009
8:41 am

I think umpiresmight consider wearing earplugs whenever they have to call games involving the Atlanta Braves.I have never seen an umpire walk over to a dugout pull out the lineup card and wait to toss the first person out of the dugout.HopeFULLY the League office will consider earplugs as a part of an umpires official dress in the future.No place for Rabbit Ears in baseball. Nasty wabbit

Bama Aaron

July 30th, 2009
8:46 am

I’ve been saying package KJ and Gonzo for either prospects or middle relieve for a week now. It’s the only deal that really makes sense. I’d send Norton out the door and just eat whatever cash is owed him and bring back Conrad.
I don’t understand people wanting to trade Vazquez…he’s been arguably our most consistent pitcher all season. Keep him and find a way to dump Kawakami.
Whatever you do know that it’s for next season because this season is lost. May & June put the Braves in too big a hole to dig out of.

Bowser

July 30th, 2009
8:49 am

These last two games have been brutal. Besides playing in the worst venue in baseball, we’re not showing up, and Super Mario keeps ejecting our manager.

butchcat

July 30th, 2009
8:54 am

Cox’s act is wearing thin. He never complained when, for many years, Maddux and Glavine were getting strikes that were 6″ off the plate. Even worse is Joe Simpson, the biggest whiner and the WORST analyst I’ve ever heard. Umps are far from perfect but are usually consistent. Cox and Simpson treat every ump as Eric Gregg. Hahn did not cost them the game—KK did giving up a three run home run to a pitcher. Oh, and by the way, McCann is starting to imitate his manager. Maybe the pitch wasn’t a strike but the count was just 1-1. The next pitch was right down the middle and McCann hit into a DP. Take some responsibility for your own failures. It would be interesting to know how many of Cox’s 146 ejections were in losing games.

Jeff Schultz

July 30th, 2009
8:57 am

Bama-The KJ-Gonzo thing is a good call. On Vasquez, you have to look at it from a business standpoint. He has one year left on his contract and I not likely to be re-signed after that. He’s the only realistic member of the rotation that you would move. And don’t say Hudson because a starter coming off TJ surgery isn’t going to fetch a lot in trade. Same with Kawakami and that contract of his. Ditto: Lowe. Hanson and Jurrijens obviously aren’t going anywhere.

Bowser — the Super Mario reference made me laugh.

Jeff Schultz

July 30th, 2009
8:59 am

Butchcat — Cox has ALWAYS complained — and Glavine and Maddux would tell you his complaining helped them get strike calls. … I agree with you though that the umpire didn’t cost them the game. That’s just an easy thing to jump on.

Mrs. Chanandler Bong

July 30th, 2009
9:08 am

Sounds like Jeff Schultz isn’t a Cox fan. Bowser, I’m laughing over the Super Mario comment. Keep ‘em comin’. I think BC did the right thing coming out of the dugout when Hohn walked over to the dugout. He was trying to protect BMac. Even though old Mac took care of all that between innings…

ghostwriter

July 30th, 2009
9:09 am

MB – I think you mixed up this line:

“But in a sense, a four-game deficit against one team seems almost as bad as an eight-game deficit in a six-to-eight-team pack.”

We still have a chance… we just need to get hot again. Losing this series hurts, but it’s not over.

ghostwriter

July 30th, 2009
9:09 am

And by MB, I meant JS.

Bravo

July 30th, 2009
9:14 am

Stick a fork in them. It’s done.

Herschel Talker

July 30th, 2009
9:15 am

butchcat at 8:54 pretty much says it all. Let’s not misdirect from where the real culpability in this loss is.

RHR

July 30th, 2009
9:15 am

If only we hadn’t wasted the 1st two months waiting for KJ and Jeff to “turn it around” …

midnite

July 30th, 2009
9:15 am

That strike call on McCann last night reminded me of the NLCS strike zone of Eric Greg’s calls in favor of the Marlins Livan Hernandez. Uncalled for and utterly ridiculous. The game night before last the home plate ump sucked also. Hohn must have been reliving that game in his fantasy world. He does have a nice porn-stach though.

The Grinch

July 30th, 2009
9:15 am

Butchcat, how many managers would get thrown out of a game they’re winning? Of course most ejections occur during losing games; the point is to fire up an underperforming team.

Jeff, you really don’t think Vasquez would re-sign here? He’s obviously more comfortable playing here than anywhere else. He’s already said he wants to play as close to Puerto Rico as he can, and I doubt the Marlins would sign him. I bet he’d take a little less to stay here. He and Bobby seem to be a good fit.

Bravo

July 30th, 2009
9:18 am

Need to go ahead and move Lowe to the Angels for Brandon Wood and Will Smith (AA minors). Move Gonzalez, Soriano, Moylan and possibly KK and KJ. Lets reload, but not throw up the white flag on this year, we could pick up a lot of pieces if we strike now. There’s a lot of teams in search of playoff pieces. We make our moves now and come next year we’ll have the pieces in place to compete and come trade deadline time we’ll have the pieces available to better our team. NO TIME TO WASTE!! MAKE THE MOVES!!!

Space Monkey

July 30th, 2009
9:20 am

Two comments:

1. This is why I don’t like the way Cox manages this team in May and June. He stuck with KJ way too long when Infante and Prado were much better options. (BTW, it now looks like KJ was playing hurt and hurting the ballclub by insisting he was only in a “slump.” He needs a one-way ticket out of town.) Sometimes, it’s like Bobby doesn’t think the May and June games count. Well, they do. We will finish between one and 10 games out of the Wild Card and all those games starting three “instant outs,” namely KJ, Frenchy, and Schaefer will cost us,

2. I think we should sign Vazquez to a long-term contract. He likes playing in Atlanta. I think he’s finally found a home. Trading him would be madness. With some offensive backup, he could be on his way to 20 wins this year. He’s always been a great pitcher. Let’s show him that we appreciate him and extend his contract. I’d also love to keep Hudson but, of the two, I’ll take Vazquez.

Chris

July 30th, 2009
9:21 am

Barring something freakish, the Braves are through. Damn shame, too – it’s a fun team to watch.

ghostwriter

July 30th, 2009
9:26 am

Vazquez is a great pitcher and has been nothing short of great here in Atlanta. I think he likes it here and we definitely like him. He’s a perfect #2 or #3 pitcher for us.

curtis jones

July 30th, 2009
9:30 am

Jeff, if Bruce Froemming, Steve Palermo and the other “Umpire Evaluators” don’t call Billy Hohn into the office TODAY for an a$$-chewing, then the whole process is a joke.

Of course, his theatrics didn’t cost the Braves that game, or any game; they took care of that themselves with crappy pitching and chronic grounders to second.

But Hohn’s continued bizarre behavior is in direct contrast to the dozens of solid umpires who do their job silently and well. Sure, we’re also still stuck with morons like Joe West, Jeff Kellogg and Angel Hernandez, but the overwhelming majority are top-notch. How Hohn has kept a job is a mystery. This is nothing new for him. He’s been a hot-head for more than ten years, and has no business in the big leagues.

He’ll be at 3rd base tonight, and any close calls or checked-swings could be an adventure; not to mention the fact he’ll be a few yards away from the Braves dugout. MLB should remove him from this crew immediately after reviewing his “lineup card” fiasco, and Marlins fist-pump from last night.

jfreak

July 30th, 2009
9:31 am

The Braves are who they are and that’s about .500 but I’ll take that as long as they continue to improve. I really like this team and I think if they can add a player or two and keep the pitching staff in place they will be even better next year. I hope they aren’t BIG sellers this year. KJ and maybe Gonzo would be wise moves if you can get a need position in return.

By the way guys don’t forget how the team of the decade was built. Great starting young pitching. Hanson and Jurgens sure look great too me! Plus a couple of solid innings eating vets and we could be a power house next year??

Good job Wren!

jimmya

July 30th, 2009
9:33 am

how much farher do braves fall playing WREN BALL FIRE WREN bring on the kids and see how they play dont let WREN trade anymore talent off

varodrunner

July 30th, 2009
9:41 am

Seems to me that Hohm is our 2009 Eric Gregg. But the difference is that Gregg cost us a game whereas Hohm just had a chip on his shoulder and tossed a player and a manager.

Now to trades… Could we get anything for KJ now? Could we possibly trade Kawakami for something? He really doesn’t look like a winner.

I would keep Vazquez and as someone mentioned, sign him to an extension. He’s been great (IMHO).

My moves before the deadline would be: Trade Kawakami, KJ and Gonzo (sign Soriano to an new contract).

Any possibility Jeff?

ROARK84

July 30th, 2009
9:42 am

600 ball is doable. Braves’ pitching is too solid to discuss conceding the playoff spot with two months to go. They can get hot just as quickly as the Phillies can go cold again.

Glad to see JS is involved today.

Phil

July 30th, 2009
9:45 am

Moron Cox left KK in the game too long once again. Should have pulled him after the home run to the pitcher. He was done at that point. I know you don’t want to go the bullpen that early in the game, but you HAVE to do whatever it takes to keep the game within reach. He left KK in the game and he gave 2 more bombs to Ramirez and Uggla. Game out of reach.

This has always been the problem with Cox since day one. He doesn’t know when to pull a pitcher. Never has, never will. He waits until the game is out of reach to make a move.

Just like this past Saturday night. He let the relief pitcher(can’t remember who it was) walk 3 batters to load the bases in the 8th inning I think it was. Then FINALLY he came out and makes a change. Acosta comes in with the bases loaded and 1 out and got the first batter out but then gave up a single and 2 runs scored. Too much to ask of Acosta to hold them.

Typical Moron Cox, doesn’t know when to take a picher out.

Forget the playoffs people.

BBrown

July 30th, 2009
9:48 am

I contend that the success of Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine is partly (if not significantly) the result of Cox working the umpires to get that outer half of the plate call. Yes, umpires are human and accordingly inconsistent. However, Bobby makes it a point of it to protect his pitchers. If I’m pitching, I want a manager like Cox working the umps to get that call. Did you see Soriano on Tuesday night, he was not getting the call at all. Bobby was furious. You saw the result, a walk and homer in the bottom of the ninth.

JP Swain

July 30th, 2009
9:50 am

Why in the world would we want to trade Vasquez? I don’t understand that at all. And why couldn’t we re-sign him and Gonzo?

If we could unload KK, KJ, and Jeff Bennett for anything other than a dog catcher, I would call that a win.

When does Bobby just say “Prado is the starter” not the “starter for a while.” He’s better defensively, hits better and is a great 2 hole guy.

Can’t wait to get Infante back to spell Chipper and turn in those quality AB’s that have been his hall mark since arriving in Atlanta.

jimmya

July 30th, 2009
9:51 am

if braves keep the same pitchers next year and keep KJ kawakami church norton kotch prado they will be in thev same place again FIRE WREN

SeanT

July 30th, 2009
9:51 am

Two things…
1. Where are all the folks last week that were praising the Braves for not making any moves. Ohhh…we don’t need Matt Holiday, he’s another bust. Yeah, he looks like one now, doesn’t he. Meanwhile the Phillies are picking up Cy Young award winners and their offense is outstanding. Don’t expect the same results against the Phillies next time around. Besides if we can’t get past the Marlins or the Nationals it really doesn’t matter. Come on folks…at least man up and say we probably should have went after someone.

2. I have not seen one comment about the fist bump between Hohn and the Marlins catcher. Am I the only one that thinks this is a big deal. That guy should be suspended…no question. Will someone in the Atlanta media please stand up. The only comment I saw was on Fox 5 Sports.

Blackberry Cobbler

July 30th, 2009
9:52 am

Every time the Braves begin to get things together and look like a decent team, they then proceed to crap in their own nest.

Despite their recent winning ways, they’ve fallen further behind the Phils. They are NOT going to catch the Phillies.

The Fish are a team contending with the Braves for the WC. Here’s a chance to make up some ground………… yet what do the Braves do, lose the first 2 games.

Forget it. The Braves are toast.

matt r

July 30th, 2009
10:02 am

As much fun as it is to see Bobby argue with umpires, has anyone stopped to think that his constant arguing of balls and strikes is trickling down to the rest of the team, and they are able to use it as sort of an excuse when things aren’t going their way? McCann feeling the need to come out and bring it back up again after the inning was already over with kind of leads me to think that he feels like this is something he should be able to do, even though we constantly hear “you can’t argue balls and strikes”. I just worry the Cox attitude might be a problem here that gets in the head of the rest of the team. Even if you want to complain about an umpire costing you a game, they don’t give you points for that… it still shows up in the L column, not the W.

P

July 30th, 2009
10:03 am

If you really look at the body language in the dugout (on TV), in the field, and at the plate this team is a reflection of COX. He has really done nothing but complain and whine all year and act like a child. The whole team is pretty much doing the same. You just don’t see the energy and the “go kill something” attitude that is needed. They play out Cox’s script every day instead of taking matters into their hands and acting like a team that really knows they can do it. Too tentative..too reserved. They need new, young leadership. Tired of looking at all the overweight, curmudgeon coaches in the dugout.

Swaga1

July 30th, 2009
10:05 am

What was the justification of signing Kawakami again?? We could have spent that money on some additional offense than spend it on some worthless rubber armed pitcher. I am so through with this team not performing when it counts. once again, this team has no heart and no fire. u can see it in the way they play Just like when they went to washington and had to win those games after sweeping philly and they lost them and now u see it again in florida. I guess they don’t want it.

PMC

July 30th, 2009
10:12 am

The braves still have to be patient. Wren has shown in his tenure he’s not afraid to pull the trigger on a deal he thinks will help the team… but they have a very slim chance of fielding a winning postseason team this year and a very large chance in the next couple of years of having a much better shot. The players that are available aren’t worth what the prospects are worth to this team in the future.

The Braves got hosed by that crew last night. They were incredibly awful. Just get back to winning series. Bad luck two nights in a row essentially. KK is just not of the caliber they expected.

Phil

July 30th, 2009
10:12 am

Good points “P”,
The team is a reflection of that Moron. Until he retires, I’m afraid it’s going to be that way. One day we will be free of the Moron. It can’t come fast enough.

PMC

July 30th, 2009
10:13 am

I really hope a few Marlins players catch some balls in the ribs tonight. I want to see that and I want to see some spikes up on DP’s… maybe a stray ball catching an umpire in the short hairs.