Braves trying to keep it going with team of moving parts

Eric Hinske started at first base for Troy Glaus. He would've preferred if that was ball, not part of his bat, flying.

Eric Hinske started at first base. He would've preferred if that was the ball, not his splintered bat, flying.

This is meant as no disrespect to Martin Prado, who is the team’s best player, or Omar Infante, who seems to have no problem filling in for the team’s best player, or Eric Hinske, or Brooks Conrad, or David Ross — none of whom seems to be particularly well-known outside of homes with mailboxes that carry the names Prado, Infante, Hinske, Conrad and Ross.

But does it seem as if the Braves have taken this whole interchangeable parts thing to a new level? Baseball was built on themes like the Mudville Nine, not the Left Field Five or the Center Field Four or the — wait, has anybody not batted third yet?

The Braves made another lineup change Tuesday night. Eric Hinske replaced the slumping Troy Glaus at first base. Presumably, Glaus will return to the lineup if he starts channeling his former May self again because his April-June-July-August self is bench-worthy.

Does it matter? Well, yes. Glaus turned 34 on Tuesday, and the Braves would prefer if his bones and his batting average weren’t creaking as if he were 54. But the lineup change further amplified what this season has been all about.

Some sports teams are like Italian sports cars. Blew out a shortstop? Sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, that part isn’t in stock. It will be arriving from Bologna in four to six months.

When a Braves player breaks down, a clubhouse attendant runs to Pep Boys for a new air filter.

“This is different from any team I’ve seen,” said Matt Diaz, who has started only in left field this season, but has batted in six different spots in the order. “You compare us to the Phillies. They lose an All-Star second baseman [Chase Utley] and, no offense to [backup] Wilson Valdez, but we lose our All-Star second baseman [Prado] and we replace him with an All-Star [Infante]. That’s the difference in our team.”

Something went wrong with the formula Tuesday night. The Braves lost to the New York Mets 3-2 on a ninth-inning home run by Jeff Francoeur off closer Billy Wagner. (Afterward, Francoeur resisted exclaiming, “This is my house!”)

Hinske went 0-for-3, including a strikeout with the bases loaded. Glaus, somewhat surprisingly sent up as a pinch-hitter for Hinske in a lefty-righty switch in the seventh inning with two runners on, grounded into an inning-ending double play. (Cox was a bit touchy when asked about using the slumping Glaus in that situation, responding: “Don’t forget he’s leading the team in RBIs — by far.”)

A minor hiccup, presumably. The Braves have somehow made this work. They’ve started five different players in left field, four in center, four at third. They have had 10 different players bat third and seventh, nine bat sixth and seven each at leadoff, second and fifth.

Things have settled somewhat, both on offense and in the field. But when Prado went down and Glaus dropped into oblivion, the roster depth minimized the impact. It’s different in Philadelphia, where the Phillies have had three MVP-caliber players on the disabled list this season — Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard — and the drop-off to the backup is like the first step off the balcony.

General manager Frank Wren really hasn’t had a choice in the matter. The team is carrying four players — Derek Lowe, Chipper Jones, Kenshin Kawakami and Nate McLouth — who comprise 48.2 percent of the total payroll ($41 million of $85 million). Two of those players are non-factors: McLouth is in the minors. Kawakami is in the bullpen, if you believe the reports in the National Enquirer. That leaves Wren to fill out the remainder of the roster with markdowns.

“If you had a choice, you’d always rather have a lineup that’s more star-studded,” Wren said. “There’s a reason those guys are stars. But at the same time I’ve always believed the best teams win, not the best players. Championship teams like St. Louis and Minnesota didn’t have the best players.”

Somehow, they’ve maintained continuity in results despite the lack of continuity on the field, this loss not withstanding. There are advantages to not being star-laden.

Earlier posts on demand (no charge)

LIVE from Braves (Hinske in, Glaus out and Dunn available)

Favre’s retirement (really? finally?) is opening for Falcons

How long can Braves keep extending Troy Glaus’s lifeline?

We’re LIVE from Braves (and will homestand stop the fade?)

Falcons’ early hits: Weatherspoon, BVG, Roddy White’s socks

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

143 comments Add your comment

Last

August 3rd, 2010
10:47 pm

First

Cox is INSANE to use Glaus in that situation. He has very little skill as a tactician.

Darryl Blackberry

August 3rd, 2010
10:58 pm

Which right-hander would you have used, Last? David Ross, our backup catcher who played last night? Remember: Diaz had already been used.

Darryl Blackberry

August 3rd, 2010
10:59 pm

Glaus was one for three with a walk the night before. Cox (and the rest of us) were hoping Glaus could come off the bench and do ANYTHING but hit a DP — which is exactly what Troy did, unfortunately. This game can be so frustrating.

Kyle Farnsworth

August 3rd, 2010
11:01 pm

Just doin’ what Jesse Chavez would’ve done!

moboman

August 3rd, 2010
11:04 pm

Somebody needs to send Francoeur some Polident. He always looks like his dentures are falling out. I’m glad we dont have to look at that stupid grin everyday.

Last

August 3rd, 2010
11:06 pm

I’d have left Hinske in, he’s not batting .160.

And he can actually RUN as opposed to HOBBLE to first.

Bryan G.

August 3rd, 2010
11:07 pm

You have to think – would you rather have Glaus vs. a righty or Hinske vs. a Lefty in that situation? I’d take my chances with Hinske at this point.

Rooferdawg

August 3rd, 2010
11:09 pm

I have run out of things to say about tonight,,, so i will say that “This” team will not be in the playoffs, good pitching or no good pitching. They either bring up Freeman and let him try or make a quick move for somebody that will bring a spark. Crime Dog,,, where are you?.

Angus

August 3rd, 2010
11:11 pm

At this point, BC’s just pulling shyte out of his arse and throwing it on the field. You can’t necessarily blame him (considering what he has to work with), but tonight was oh-so bad (case in point: the bottom of the 8th).

BravesLover

August 3rd, 2010
11:13 pm

Recalling that Melkey and Hinske were signed as bench help and both have been “forced” into virtual full time action speaks volumes for the interchangable parts idea. Both would have been fearsome coming off the bench. The virtual full time work is not their forte and it shows. With that said I continue to be impressed with the hustle and determination this team shows night after night. This is a team that is truly better than the sum of its individual parts. Ankiel is going to be a force for this team and I like this addition. I haven’t changed my mind in what I wrote in May that this team will break our hearts, but it’s fun to ride the wave for now.

shawn

August 3rd, 2010
11:14 pm

Cox will never change that is why we only have one WS..I am glad that he is retiring..A smart manager would not use Glaus as a pinch hitter, but then again it is Bobby

larry the lover

August 3rd, 2010
11:15 pm

Paging Roy Hobbs

The Wad

August 3rd, 2010
11:16 pm

Feel free to correct me if I`m wrong but Hinske hasn`t hit much of anything since the end of May. And yet I would always take him over Glaus. Glaus jerks his head off the ball, but can`t run even if he does get lucky and touch the ball. Freeman time…………

Keith

August 3rd, 2010
11:20 pm

This game was 75% due to POOR MANAGING!!!

I’m not one to use capital letters, but I am so frustrated by this loss….

Example #1: Cox said before the game that he was going to rest Glaus 1-2 days in order to give him a physical boost, rest knees, etc….

Why does he do this? Glaus has been atrocious for 2 + mos.

What does Bobby do? He puts him in the game with 1 out in a RISP situation….so the VERY THING he wasn’t going to do (play him) and puts him into the WORST possible pressure situation. Glaus grounds into a DP, and the inning/threat is over. Consequence = Glaus’ psyche is further damaged, he isn’t fully rested, and he is mentally worse off than he was before the game.

Example #2: Farnsworth coming in in a tie game as his first appearance. What in the heck, Bobby? His first appearance you should ease him into this role in a situation that is no or limited pressure….to calm him down….etc.

Example #3: Gonzalez walked the inning. Cabrera has a 2-0 count, and Gonzalez is moving…..DO WHAT????? Melky might have missed the sign and didn’t swing (if it was a hit/run)…but why would you send the runner when the first batter walked and there is a 2-0 count. Gonza gets nailed by 7 steps at 2nd, then Melky walked….so instead of 2 on , 0 outs…you have 1 on 1st and 1 out.

75% blame = Bobby Cox

20% blame = Wags

5% blame = offense not taking opportunities.

Fulton

August 3rd, 2010
11:21 pm

So sorry to say it but, regardless of the regular season miracles, in the playoffs the Braves will fade like a cheap pair of jeans…count on it!!

cheshire

August 3rd, 2010
11:22 pm

i know it’s popular to slam Cox right now so i don’t want to seem like i’m just piling on, but the decision making at this point has just become baffling, if not absolutely maddening. The ENTIRE REASON that Hinske was even in the game was because Glaus has done NOTHING in 2 months. Looking at the lineup card before the game, I think all of Braves nation made a collective sigh of relief that Glaus was finally out.

And then in a clutch situation you inexplicably replace Hinske with the very slumping player who he was brought in to replace?? If you didn’t trust Hinske in a key situation, why did you let him start the game to begin with? Seriously, can someone explain this to me??? And the righty/lefty thing is irrelevant because Glaus can’t hit righty OR lefty.

Additionally, i think baseball is a game where repitition and consistency are absolutely key, and having a different player in each position each night is not helping. How are guys like Diaz or Infante or Conrad or Hinske supposed to get in any kind of a groove if they’re only playing 1 or 2 games a week? Fortunately Infante has been able to handle it, but it’s not good when half your team is having to operate like that. That “stop and go” pattern we are putting these guys through is terrible.

Keith

August 3rd, 2010
11:23 pm

Chesire…see my long post above. :(

This year I’d say he’s managed pretty well, but tonight was atrocious….

JRW7

August 3rd, 2010
11:24 pm

BOBBY COX This lefty/righty thing does not work when you use a .160 RH hitter!! Troy Glaus is TERRIBLE!!! He’s killing this team. BW needs a little rest too! He has lost 3 out of last 6 games he has pitched!

carl

August 3rd, 2010
11:27 pm

Phillies are 2 games back and creeping.

cheshire

August 3rd, 2010
11:27 pm

Keith, i read it right after i’d posted mine.

The thing is, i’ve never been one of these “blame Cox” guys… in fact i used to argue with those people quite a bit, but i don’t have a leg to stand on anymore. Every night i watch these games i’m just scratching my head. I just don’t get it.

And i don’t want to seem like a monday morning quarterback or one of these idiots who pretends they know way more about baseball than a guy who has been managing the team for over 20 years, but i find myself actually predicting horrible moves before they go awry. Not because i’m a genius but because it’s just basic common sense.

Keith

August 3rd, 2010
11:34 pm

At times, cheshire, he’s been great. I remember him putting the squeeze on twice in one week and I really liked those decisions to manufacture runs….but Glaus’ May/Early June is long erased…..and tonight that was terrible putting him in…..

He’s worse off tonight than he was before the start of the game…..

Kneecap

August 3rd, 2010
11:35 pm

Totally agree Keith. Said the same thing watchin the game. Why in the Hell do u send up Glaus to pinch when he hasn’t frikin hit in two months?
Why r we hit & running when WE CANT HIT?

extremus

August 3rd, 2010
11:36 pm

So what you’re saying, Mr. Schultz, is that the Braves have patched together a first-place (so far) record with a team of mostly platoon-caliber players who’ve often managed to pick each other up and do just enough to win. And I agree. But the problem is, sooner or later they’re going to remind you why so many positions haven’t had a true everyday player; it’s because none of them have the dependability and consistency to produce day-in, day-out over an entire season. Hinske, Diaz, Ankiel, Cabrera, Conrad, the list goes on…while at times each of them have single-handedly won games for the Braves this year, they can’t and won’t maintain that level of consistency indefinitely. We need actual, honest-to-goodness everyday-caliber baseball players out there, but unfortunately if your team name’s not the Yankees you can’t afford that in the current MLB economy.

So you don’t lose much numbers-wise with Infante in for Prado for a few days. Doesn’t matter if the entire TEAM tends to go into frigid declines at the plate with RISP for extended and frankly ill-timed periods. Things average out, and I’m sure that they’ll get hot again, but the problem is that good pitching staffs have figured out that at any given time this year, there are at least two or three spots in our batting order they can go to for an easy out if they need one. That’s precisely why ralies are dying time after time and we simply can’t get runners home now. Somebody’s ALWAYS been ice cold on this team, be it Glaus or McLouth or, earlier in the season, Cabrera or Escobar. Heyward, despite his good hitting since returning from the thumb injury, still is nowhere near what he was, and that “patience at the plate” is becoming a double-edged sword as opposing pitchers have figured out they can get him behind on a down-the-middle looking first strike ninety percent of the time.

I think the Braves need to do something along the lines of what the Phillies did several days ago right before their winning binge. Heads need to roll and these guys have to have a fire lit under them, otherwise what could have been a very special season will go out with a whimper.

Gumby

August 3rd, 2010
11:37 pm

Frenchy beat us, sorry to say. I always liked Jeff so I’m glad to see him do OK. Just wish it wasn’t against us. Glaus carried us for a while this year and lest we forget, if it wasn’t for Troy we wouldn’t be in 1st right now. Give it a rest. It’s baseball and nobody wins 162 games. Some we are going to lose we shouldn’t have and some we win we shouldn’t have. Let’s see if we can get our offense back on track. If we do everything will come together. Pitching is not the problem and Troy Glaus is not the only batter.

Balldemar Huerta

August 3rd, 2010
11:37 pm

Paging Tonya Harding

Buffalo Soldier 48'

August 3rd, 2010
11:39 pm

The Braves are ‘DONE’ for this seaon. I said it last week, the Braves will regret trading Francour. Bobby Cox is a very poor manager. I cannot understand his baseball logic. Too old, too set in his ways. Bad, bad, bad ……………………

mikeDW

August 3rd, 2010
11:39 pm

Perhaps Bobby was just showing us why he is about to bench Glaus. After all, one of the the last things Nate did, before being sent to AAA, was lose a game for us by hitting into a double play late in the game.

john edwin norris

August 3rd, 2010
11:39 pm

the braves need to pick up a hitter
on the waver rire

Keith

August 3rd, 2010
11:41 pm

mikeDW – I hadn’t thought about that possibility, but that would be at the expense of your team, and I don’t think Bobby would do that…

cheshire

August 3rd, 2010
11:41 pm

It reminds me of the decision he made on the road trip to pinch hit Nate McLouth in an extra inning game… based loaded with 1 out, and sure enough McLouth hit into a double play. Tonight’s game felt no different to me: take the guy who is hitting worse than anyone on the team and put him in in a crucial situation, in which he inevitably fails and kills the team’s chance of winning.

The only reasonable explanation i can come up with is that he’s trying to help these guys get their confidence back. And i could appreciate that approach if this were April or May, but you’re in the middle of an August pennant race in which horrible decisions like that one have trimmed your lead from 7 games to 2 games. Bobby needs to decide if he’s going to coddle struggling players or make the playoffs… he can’t do both.

All aboard the Hey-Train

August 3rd, 2010
11:42 pm

Call up Freeman. Let’s face it, he’s way more than ready. When Prado comes back, move Infante to 3rd everyday and have Jones and Glaus be cheerleaders.

Keith

August 3rd, 2010
11:42 pm

You forget the percentages of lefty/lefty righty/righty when your Lefty/lefty is Hinke vs Acosta and Glaus vs the entire league is TERRIBLE for 2 mos. :(

TheAntiMe

August 3rd, 2010
11:42 pm

We need some more parts to be moving, preferably moving out at first base. If Chipper Jones is a well known Mets killer (and he is) then Troy Glaus is very quickly becoming the most well known Braves killer, by far. Thanks for May, Troy, but it’s time for you to go! Somewhere, anywhere!

MIKE

August 3rd, 2010
11:42 pm

Bravos Bravos….what you going to do….what you going do when the Phils come for you….Bravos, Braves…what you going to do when we come for you

All aboard the Hey-Train

August 3rd, 2010
11:43 pm

And give McClouth another shot. He’s been stroking up(geographically) in Gwinnett. He can’t be any worse pinch hitting than Glaus, plus he has the skill that never slumps: speed.

Keith

August 3rd, 2010
11:45 pm

I’m still not in panic-mode as I think we’ll take the series tomorrow and play well this month, but we would have a much better chance tonight if Hinske was in to bat, Gonza didn’t run, etc.

All aboard the Hey-Train

August 3rd, 2010
11:45 pm

Keith, Manuel put in Acosta after Glaus was announced. It would have been Feliciano(lefty) against Hinske otherwise.

Kneecap

August 3rd, 2010
11:50 pm

The only hope we have right now is the pitching staff. They are going to have to be lights out or we will not win. The entire group of hitters cannot drive in runs.

Its hard to believe the pitching staff can now only give up 1 run or we will lose.
It just sux.

All aboard the Hey-Train

August 3rd, 2010
11:52 pm

Kneecap, this is just another snag. Braves lost 9-in-a-row in April. This won’t last long. And besides, we have the pitching to carry us. Lowe has been the worst of the starting 5 and he only gave up 1 run. I’d like to see him go longer than 6, but that’s way better than the 3 or 4 he was posting earlier.

Gene

August 3rd, 2010
11:55 pm

When I was in my 20’s, I went to Las Vegas, twice I think. I won a little money, but quickly lost it back. When my silver dollar supply began to shrink, I kept thinking, the next one will be a winner, and of course, it wasn’t, and I went home broke. I learned not to play slot machines, but apparently Bobby Cox is less astute. He keeps wasting silver dollars on the chance that guys like McLouth and Glaus are going to hit it rich, and the blind squirrel will suddenly find a nut. Insanity = doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. If this insanity continues, Bobby will spend October on his bass boat.

TheAntiMe

August 3rd, 2010
11:57 pm

Two runs per game on offense just ain’t going to cut it. Please get it together. It’s getting to the point where I’m yelling at the relief pitchers if they give up even one run, and that’s not really fair when they have to be perfect every freaking game or lose.

TheAntiMe

August 4th, 2010
12:00 am

I said pretty much the same as you, Kneecap, and I didn’t even see your post. I was just recounting why my upstairs neighbor thinks I’ve lost my mind between 8:30 and 10:00 PM these days (or nights, to be tecnically correct).

TheAntiMe

August 4th, 2010
12:02 am

Technically, that should be “technically correct”.

ben

August 4th, 2010
12:04 am

Sure could use Escobar’s bat right now. Ever since the trade, nothing is going right.

Doc Holliday

August 4th, 2010
12:07 am

Turn out the lights, the party is over. Same old, same old, same old.

Philco

August 4th, 2010
12:13 am

ben, that Escobar comment opens up another bad Cox influenced “decision”……next year (and beyond) as Escobar takes the steps up to the next level….and Elvis and Neifi have Texas playing for a World Series…we will have a roster of AAA ball players…..

Philco

August 4th, 2010
12:16 am

…well at least 3 everyday MLB players, Heyward, Prado and McCann

ben

August 4th, 2010
12:29 am

Before the All-Star Break, we took 2 of 3 from the Phillies in Philadelphia and we also took 2 of 3 from the Mets in New York. Those were “statement” games (when you walked off that field, the players knew who the better team was…the Braves clearly established that point). These Braves, in particular, were always “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” kind of team.
Add the fact (before the All-Star Break) that the Braves were basically unbeatable at home, you had the team marked down for the playoffs. But take away one talented player (Escobar), and it maybe just doesn’t work as well as it used to.

Keith

August 4th, 2010
12:40 am

Re: All Aboard….

Yes, you’re right….I would have rather had lefty/lefty (hinke and the guy you mentioned) vs Glaus vs lefty/anyone in the league :(

J-Hey

August 4th, 2010
1:05 am

“Don’t forget he’s leading the team in RBIs”

that’s about as bad of a defense as you could give .. lol wow.

So if he’s leading the team in RBIs you don’t want to someone like that out of your lineup right? So Bobby .. how come he didn’t start tonight? Or that last game against the Reds? He’s leading the team with 61 RBIs and you’re sitting him, well now that just doesn’t make any sense.