Braves hoping to recreate chemistry from 2010 season

The challenge for new Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is to recreate last season's chemistry. (AP photo)

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez knows what the Braves had last season was rare. (AP photo)

(Updated: 4:45 p.m.)

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – If there is one thing we’ve learned in sports, it’s that tangibles don’t always equate to success.

San Francisco didn’t win the World Series last season because it had the best talent, just as the Braves didn’t make it to the postseason because the secret formula of having a nine-game losing streak, losing two No. 3 hitters (Chipper Jones and Martin Prado) and utilizing 109 different lineups came with a 91-win guarantee.

Success is defined by that fragile thing called chemistry. It’s what prevents a nine-game losing streak, losing two No. 3 hitters and 109 lineups from making the lab blow up.

General manager Frank Wren and new manager Fredi Gonzalez have a significant challenge this season. It’s not merely finding a replacement for Billy Wagner, or helping Jordan Schafer relocate his career, or hoping the wander through the desert for a franchise first baseman ends with Freddie Freeman. It’s about re-creating the mojo that enables a team to endure when something goes wrong — because something always does.

“It is hard to create and to have something like that,” said Gonzalez, whose Braves’ spring debut as manager Saturday against the New York Mets ended in a 5-5 tie. “But I think the core that created that is still here. It makes it fun to come to the ballpark when you’ve got good chemistry. When they take care of their own problems, it makes it easy.”

Catcher Brian McCann referred to last season as “by far the closest team I’ve ever been on.”

Chipper Jones said, “It was fun to come out to the park early and just hang out. That doesn’t happen all the time.”

Wren said last season’s Braves were one of the more unique groups he ever has been associated with, saying: “I thought one thing that was interesting about our team, as well as defining, was that a lot of our leaders were our bench guys — [Eric] Hinske, [David] Ross, [Matt] Diaz, [Brooks] Conrad, [Omar] Infante. Those were guys we really depended on a lot on the field, but they also had a big voice in the clubhouse. We knew right off the bat that Infante [traded to Florida in the Dan Uggla deal] and Diaz [not re-signed] would not be back, so it was important to find out: How do we replace them?”

There are a lot of reasons to feel good about the Braves’ this season, but the biggest is that the core group hasn’t changed (and Uggla seems to be a Braves’ clone in every aspect).

The well-traveled Hinske, who also played on tight-knit teams in Boston, New York and Tampa, was a free agent after last season, but knew immediately he wanted to return to Atlanta. “Until you’re in the fire,” he said, “you don’t know how people will perform in those situations. But we have a good group. We have fun. We keep it loose. As we showed last year during the losing steak, nobody panicked.”

The knock on the Braves of years past is that they were overly robotic and relatively unemotional. Not an issue with this bunch.

“Some years here, we’ve had one class clown in the clubhouse to keep things loose,” Jones said. “Now we’ve got four or five.”

Last season was special and unique, so much so that when it was over, at least 15 players hung around until 1 a.m. after the final playoff loss to the Giants.

“That’s something you don’t see very often in this day and age,” Jones said. “Our season was over. We had a bucket full of beer just sitting there. We were reminiscing on the what-ifs and the year in general. Then Bobby [Cox] came in and sat with us. That meant a lot to the guys. I think we all just wanted to soak up the last few moments of the season.”

If they can re-create that, they’ll be fine.

By Jeff Schultz

Other posts from Braves’ camp

So what does Freddie Freeman (3 doubles) do for an encore?

Digi-Blog goes to Braves’  spring training at Disney (they charge, I don’t)

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

384 comments Add your comment

KnightInATL

February 26th, 2011
12:45 pm

Here’s to a healthy and successful season. GO BRAVES!!!!!

Suenah Martis

February 26th, 2011
12:47 pm

Amen to health!

Nate D

February 26th, 2011
12:58 pm

First since nobody said it. Go Braves!

Younger Than That Now

February 26th, 2011
12:59 pm

Good things will continue… as long as Schultz doesn’t show up in the clubhouse with those shorts on!!

papadawg

February 26th, 2011
1:00 pm

Come on describe those wonderful smells of the old ball park. You know the greasy concession stands, the green grass things like that.

Innocent Bystander

February 26th, 2011
1:09 pm

I love MLB.TV

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:10 pm

Younger Than That Now — Dude, my legs will be George Hamilton bronze by the end of the week.

jason

February 26th, 2011
1:11 pm

I have to pay for mlb tv? ahh man

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:11 pm

Papadawg — They’ve actually done a real nice renovation of this park in the past few years.

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:11 pm

The first at-bat of spring: Jordan Schafer strikes out looking.

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:12 pm

A new look: Terry Pendleton in the first-base coaching box.

Lord Hogon

February 26th, 2011
1:12 pm

Ahhh spring training how I missed theee…

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:14 pm

Second batter of spring: Nate McLouth walks … By the way, Fernando Martinez pitching or Mets.

RBG

February 26th, 2011
1:15 pm

DOB gets the call out on air regarding matt kemp

The Rock

February 26th, 2011
1:15 pm

The Rock says, “Finally, The Strikeout machine has come back!!!…to Dark Star!”

Just kidding Jordan. Wish you the best, and hope you make the team out of camp.

Andy

February 26th, 2011
1:17 pm

Fernando Martinez is in RF. Jenrry Mejia is pitching. Damn DH.

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:19 pm

Braves out of the first after Heyward and McCann groundout … Jurrjens on the mound for Braves.

The Rock

February 26th, 2011
1:21 pm

Baseball is back, and Spring is right around the corner!!!! YaaaaHoooo!!!

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:25 pm

Luis Castillo with a 1-out single off Jurrjens.

Bingle Derry

February 26th, 2011
1:26 pm

Hey Jeff, thanks for the PBP !!!

ATLman

February 26th, 2011
1:26 pm

Excited about this season! Can’t wait for Opening Day! I will probably follow Spring more than ever this year out of excitement. Likewise I wish success for Jordan as I think he could easily show up McLouth this year. Also wish good health for Chipper! Don’t play in a game until you are ready man.

Baseballer

February 26th, 2011
1:27 pm

JS:

Did the Mets pass a hat around for an offering before the first pitch?

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:28 pm

David Wright just cracked it almost to warning track in right, but just a loud out.

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:29 pm

Brooks Conrad has his second assist of inning to end 1st. (Comments, anybody?)

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:33 pm

Baseballer — No but there’s some guy in the crowd trying to talk fans into giving a $1 million for his pyramid scheme.

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:34 pm

Freddie Freeman just cracked a one-out double in the second and advanced to third on a bad throw.

Swede

February 26th, 2011
1:35 pm

What a sweet swing from Freeman!!

Swede

February 26th, 2011
1:36 pm

Brooks Conrad rocks!

Richie_Rich1986

February 26th, 2011
1:36 pm

lets go Bravos!!! Like to see Lowe tear a rotator cuff today or something LOL!! future references I’m not much of a Lowe fan. Can’t wait to see these bats poppin today! They’ve been looking good this spring.

Richie_Rich1986

February 26th, 2011
1:38 pm

Jeff,

How did schafer look on his first AB? did he take any good cuts? I’m stuck watching the Yankees and Phillies on MLB network.

Steve

February 26th, 2011
1:38 pm

Jeff, did anyone pick up Troy Glaus or did he just retire? I miss him as much as I miss Norton.

The Rock

February 26th, 2011
1:39 pm

Jeff,

What’s the pitching lineup for the Braves today?

Swede

February 26th, 2011
1:39 pm

Freeman scores!!

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:39 pm

Braves up 1-0 as Freeman scores on a wild pitch.

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:41 pm

Richie_Rich1986 — Yeah, Schafer actually fouled off a few pitches, he was aggressive (except for the last pitch).

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:42 pm

Steve — On Glaus: No, he’s still out there and has one foot into retirement.

Swede

February 26th, 2011
1:43 pm

Jurrjens look sharp against Bay – K swinging

jason

February 26th, 2011
1:43 pm

I’m hearing it on the radio but is still want to see them play

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:44 pm

The Rock — The Braves’ pitching plans today: Jurrjens-Venters-O’Flaherty-Kimbrel-C.Martinez and then some minor league guys.

Richie_Rich1986

February 26th, 2011
1:44 pm

Steve,

Glaus is going to take atleast half the year off to rehab his knee and get a little bit more healthier. Last season took a lot out of him. He said he will forsure play next season and if not he’s going to retire

@ Jeff,
Thanks he’s going to be a big part of our sucess this season. I really hope him and nate both turn it around cause who knows how many games Chipper is going to play this season and it’d be nice to have an outfield of McLouth in LF and Schafer in Center.

pete

February 26th, 2011
1:44 pm

Glaus is sitting out this year. You are a moron for disliking Glaus. He carried the team for 2 months. And when he got benched you never heard him say a word

Swede

February 26th, 2011
1:44 pm

…and he can field too… 2 down

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:46 pm

Mets’ Josh Thole get two-out single off Jurrjens in 2nd.

Richie_Rich1986

February 26th, 2011
1:46 pm

@ Jeff,

What happened to Lowe pitching today?

Steve

February 26th, 2011
1:47 pm

Jeff, have you heard anymore about O’Flaherty and the 46oz steak? How does one eat that much? Any clue where they went?

Richie_Rich1986

February 26th, 2011
1:48 pm

@ Jeff,

Can you please put up that picture of Huddy throwing bullpen on thursday that was on the main page of the AJC I’m in the backround watching :)

Richie_Rich1986

February 26th, 2011
1:49 pm

@ steve,

Isn’t that crazy? I asked him about it and he said he loves to eat some steak.. I love steak but I couldn’t imagine eating that much.

Jeff Schultz

February 26th, 2011
1:49 pm

Jurrejens gets out of second. That will be it for Jurrjens. He threw 34 pitches, 23 for strikes.

Steve

February 26th, 2011
1:50 pm

I think O’Flaherty should take Adam’s place on Man vs. Food.

count_schemula

February 26th, 2011
1:51 pm

No need to bash Glaus. He was cheap, and he had a month on fire, and I never ever thought he was slacking or mailing it in. He did produce at times, so that alone elevates him over Norton.