Poll: Who should get most blame for Braves’ collapse?

Here's two of your biggest targets: Derek Lowe and Fredi Gonzalez. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Here's two of your biggest targets: Derek Lowe and Fredi Gonzalez. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

I write this knowing that there’s still a very good chance the Braves (with Tim Hudson on the mound) will win tonight’s game against Philadelphia (which starts Joe Blanton) and at least force a one-game playoff for the wild card spot Thursday in St. Louis.

I write this knowing that if the Braves get into the playoffs, strange things have been known to happen in postseasons. And, seriously, it’s not like either potential divisional opponent, Milwaukee or Arizona, is some indestructible force.

Who should get most blame for Braves' collapse?

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But as the Braves drag a four-game losing streak and 10-19 record over the past five weeks into the Phillies game, here’s the question: Who’s to blame for this collapse?

I’ve got my own feelings on this. But to be honest, I think I’m still in shock over the developments and, well, I’m still processing it all. A column will be forthcoming at some point. For now, I wanted to get your thoughts and post a poll on the topic.

I can’t list every player and team official. So I’ll just list a handful of candidates with a quick synopsis on each.

Here we go:

Frank Wren: It’s his team. He built it. He made a solid move at the trade deadline for Michael Bourn, who has played well, but the Braves are only 26-26 with him in the lineup. So did Wren make the right move. Uggla looked like a good signing but results are mixed. There’s also the hangover over of the Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami contracts, which has limited flexibility in moves.

Fredi Gonzalez: He is the favorite whipping boy for a lot of folks. I’m not quite there yet. Gonzalez has made a ton of bold moves: taking Chipper Jones out of the No. 3 hole, benching Jason Heyward, changing lineups, shuffling batting orders. There’s only so much he can do. Starting Lowe on Tuesday obviously backfired in a major way. The flip side: You understand the concern of a manager starting his fourth rookie pitcher (Julio Teheran) in a pennant race. Then again, there’s this: It’s the manager’s job to get his team to play better. Obviously, that’s not happening right now.

Larry Parrish: He is the new hitting coach. The Braves are not hitting. Many of you folks dumped on Terry Pendleton. So how do you feel about the job Parrish is doing?

Derek Lowe: When Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens went down with injuries, the Braves just needed Lowe to be halfway decent. Two more wins from Lowe and they’re not even in this position. But now he’s a mess.

Dan Uggla: He’s back to his first-pitch, over-swinging, let-me-save-the-world-in-one-at-bat habits. Not good.

Jason Heyward: He has been a major disappointment in year two, and the problems appear to go beyond him just having his swing messed up by injuries.

Martin Prado: Personally, I think his season has hurt more than anything. Prado was Mr. Everything last season but this year has struggled, had some ailments and never got into rhythm.

Brian McCann: He’s another guy who was counted on to be a major run producer. But clearly he is banged up. I debated even putting him on the list but he is this team’s potential cleanup hitter.

That’s it. You’ll notice I’m not listing Chipper Jones. If you want to discuss him below, that’s fine. But I’m not going to list him on the poll. I find it crazy that anybody would pin the team’s problems on him. He’s hitting .280 (No. 2 on the team) with 18 homers (No. 4) and 69 RBIs (No. 4). The man is 39 years old and being held together with duct tape. In terms of production, exactly what was it you expected?

OK, have at it. Who gets the most blame for what has been going on?

By Jeff Schultz

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

699 comments Add your comment

Nova Scotia Steve

September 28th, 2011
11:36 am

Jeff: Where’s the offense as a whole option???

That’s what I would like to click.

Jeff Schultz

September 28th, 2011
11:37 am

Nova Scotia — The offense as a whole? That probably would be the pitching coach. Unless you want to blame Mike Mularkey or Mike Bobo.

me

September 28th, 2011
11:37 am

FIRST!!!!!!!!!!!!! i call it!!!!!!!!!!!

Brian

September 28th, 2011
11:38 am

I think you have to separate the discussions around the collapse and the season as a whole. For the collapse, it’s got to be Lowe or maybe Fredi’s management of the bullpen. If you look at it from a season perspective, it’s hard to look past Lowe (again), Prado or Heyward.

me

September 28th, 2011
11:38 am

guess im not first…. a minute too late!!!!

Nova Scotia Steve

September 28th, 2011
11:38 am

LOL

Let’s go with Mike Bobo :D

Joe Friday

September 28th, 2011
11:39 am

I blame Don Waddell

Thrashers Fan

September 28th, 2011
11:39 am

Why isn’t injuries an option?

Nova Scotia Steve

September 28th, 2011
11:40 am

I blame this teams offensive struggles as the primary reasons behind the collapse.
Our pitchers have no margin for error.

None what-so-ever. That includes, McCann, Prado, Heyward, Diaz, Bourn – all of ‘em

FireFredi

September 28th, 2011
11:40 am

Fredi has countless times made boneheaded decisions this year… If I’m not mistaken twice he let the pitcher hit only to pull him next inning, also walking Ty wiggington to get to Carlos Gonzalez in Colorado earlier this season told me all I needed to know about that Moron of a manager!!!! Schultzie, why do you insist on giving that clown a pass????

The Dude

September 28th, 2011
11:41 am

At the root of all of this is the ridiculous contracts to Kawakami, Lowe, and McLouth.

The Dude

September 28th, 2011
11:41 am

sidslid

September 28th, 2011
11:42 am

Wren. With the money wasted on Kawakami and Lowe, he couldn’t make a move at the trade deadline. Bourn hasn’t really added anything (seems to get thrown out when it really matters) and his fly out with the bases loaded the other day was a nail in the coffin at bat.

Rcd

September 28th, 2011
11:42 am

Fredi had a clue of what he was going to get when he started Lowe. It’s Fredi’s team. No escaping that.

An epic fail in his first season. There’s a reason Florida fired him.

AlaskaDawg

September 28th, 2011
11:44 am

Jeff, I think you and Mark Bradley have done a great job recapping the situation. I am a lifetime Braves fan, but my current geographical location in Anchorage severely limits my ability to catch games. That, in itself, may be a good thing. At least the Falcons, Braves and yes my beloved Dawgs have each other’s shoulders to cry on in the “we underachieve for no apparent reason” boat to loserville. I won’t give up, but I probably should. Go Tim Hudson. Give us a chance.

MWoodring77

September 28th, 2011
11:45 am

I want to add chipper to this list, not for production cause that has been there from him, but as the leader of this team. I know he is not the coach and it’s not his job, but he is the vet whom has to close the door and lay into this team like a veteran leader is supposed to do in time of crisis…with that being said..I still think we got a punchers chance to win the wc and maybe more if this team figures out their offensive woes…..Go Braves!!!

matt r

September 28th, 2011
11:47 am

I blame God for all the injuries

Nova Scotia Steve

September 28th, 2011
11:47 am

Jeff, are you going to the game this evening???

Hankie Aron

September 28th, 2011
11:49 am

Jason Heyward– If he hits half has good in terms of average on obp then we aren’t having this conversation. A close second is Lowe—the guy looks to be washed up.

AlaskaDawg

September 28th, 2011
11:50 am

Can we blame Bobby for retirin?. At least his meltdowns were in the postseason.

Don'tChoke

September 28th, 2011
11:51 am

What did we stop using the Bourn/Constanza duo? We were winning during that electric time frame. I know he tweaked the ankle, but a week later he never came back. Heyward never took the opportunity to wrestle away the spot Constanza EARNED and DESERVED to keep.

T

September 28th, 2011
11:51 am

It is obviously Fredi’s fault due to his inner Bobby Cox coming out by playing players due to his loyalty. Why isn’t Constanza not playing? This team played its best when he had Bourne at the top of the lineup and Georgie Constanza at the bottom. This isn’t a 3 run home run league any more and speed is the name of the game. Heyward had no business playing every day, and why he made the move to put him back in the lineup is insane. I am typically not a coach killer, because I know players play and coaches coach, but not in this case. Loyalty has no place on teams who want to win.

bourntobeabrave

September 28th, 2011
11:51 am

FREDI ALL THE WAY. managers have to be accountable for the team they MANAGE

Fred

September 28th, 2011
11:52 am

I voted for Heyward, but agree that Prado has been really disappointing, especially in the 2nd half. The inability to get on base or at least make productive outs in the two hole has been really frustrating and speaks to the trouble the team has had in manufacturing runs, especially given Bourn’s speed at the top of the lineup. Those intangibles don’t show up in the box score, but are key to winning close games. Really makes you appreciate the Jeff Blausers, Jeff Treadways, Walt Weiss, Marcus Giles, etc. of yesteryear. It’s a shame…no one works harder than Prado. Would be interesting to see how many different players we used in the two hole over the year. You’ve got that info handy, right Jeff? :)

NotJeffSchultz

September 28th, 2011
11:52 am

I blame Obama..oh wait…sorry..wrong post. I personally don’t feel like there isn’t anyone to actually point the finger and say, “You caused this!” The injuries really hurt us down the stretch and it is obvious too. Earlier in the year when we had a large lead it was fine because, I for one, thought Jurrjens and Hanson would come back. Now we have to rely on guys like Delgado, Teheran and other rookies who are no older than me to come in and play the role of Hanson, of Jurrjens etc. Plus it doesn’t help when your offense is flat pitiful down the stretch because, in my opinion, of exhaustion. I mean how many consecutive games has Freeman, McCann, Prado, and Bourn played in a row without a day off. You know these guys want to win bad and are doing their best, but to point the finger at someone solely and blame them is BUSCH league…..see what I did there? Go Braves, and Astros.

CT Falcons & Braves Fan

September 28th, 2011
11:54 am

I blame the injuries to Hanson and Jair. It’s that simple. As dissapointed and annoyed as I am that we’re in this position, I still have a lot of hope for next year with all the young talent. D-Lowe has one year left on his contract, I believe? Stick him in the bullpenn. As you or Mark wrote recently, he’d probably be decent in the 6th/7th innning role and take some of the pressure off of O’Flaherty and Venters.

Louie Lou

September 28th, 2011
11:55 am

Jeff, I don’t think Wren should be included on this list. He put a good team together. If anyone is to blame it should be the manager and coaches. They did not prep this team and it shows every time they step up to the plate or go to the mound. I don’t get how Parrish ever got the job in the first place. He hasn’t been able to correct Heyward’s mechanics for god’s sake! Keeps swinging with that front toe pointing out. We could have gone after Baylor in the off-season, but didn’t. Now look at what he’s doing in Arizona. There is no leadership in that locker room and it all starts with the coach. No fire in him and I haven’t seen him motivate this club the way Bobby did. He doesn’t argue calls when his players need him to. I believe this team gave up on him because he gave up on them.

1eyedJack

September 28th, 2011
11:55 am

One thing our current president don’t understand is that the buck stops at the top. He’s got a spending problem while Braves ownership is sitting on the money bags. There is too much uncertainty. Therefore, I blame Liberty Media for being cheap skinflints. So thar! ;)

Roadsterron

September 28th, 2011
11:55 am

Fredi and Lowe—MUST GO!!!!! Heyward is a major problem. But—-we have 9 major problems every night that they take the field. I said it once and I’ll say it again—Bench the losers and play all the other players!!! The starters have proven what?? That they can lose? Ha!!!

Paul

September 28th, 2011
11:56 am

It has to be Larry Parrish. Wren did all that he could do at the deadline and those prospects he did not trade contributed greatly when the injuries hit. Gonzales can only do so much, as you say, but maybe so much tinkering created an uneasiness in the locker room. Lowe is one pitcher out of five – though he makes 15 mil. Heyward can’t be thrown under the bus this early, Prado was a pleasant suprise last year, and McCann has been this team’s MVP for two seasons at least. Uggla carried this team for a month.

The offense has been horrible most of the year. Our pitching carried us all year. It was obvious that, when we needed our offense, it would not be able to show up. I don’t know how much Parrish influences the production, but it has to be at least somewhat significant to get paid to do it.

The Real Brave

September 28th, 2011
11:56 am

It’s the non-hitting players who have choked.

Hmmmm

September 28th, 2011
11:56 am

Is it just me, or didn’t Mr. Lowe’s decline pretty much coincide with his DUI arrest on Peachtree Street in Buckhead? He has had a bad season from start to finish, but it seems to me that his won/loss record took a percipitous dive after his driving incident. This begs the proverbial cause & effect question, was he DUI because he was depressed about his poor performance or has his performance declined because of his drinking and partying – the $15 million a year windfall eroding his commitment?

Roadsterron

September 28th, 2011
11:57 am

Well—-let’s see how many NON HITTING players we can name??? ALL OF THEM!!!!

1eyedJack

September 28th, 2011
11:57 am

If the Yankees screw up and make a bad investment they write it off. If the Braves screw up and make a bad investment they just have to live or die with it.

ATL Fan

September 28th, 2011
11:57 am

Who should get most blame for Braves’ collapse?
The injury bug!

PMC

September 28th, 2011
11:57 am

I personally think the Braves should eliminate the hitting coach position and spend the extra money on actual hitters.

They are incapable of hiring a hitting coach who can help them anyway.

This is on Derrick Lowe though as much as anyone. He’s paid to be Roy Oswalt. He’s paid to do what Oswalt did to the Braves last night. Big Time Post Season pitcher that can throw a lot of innings is what they sold us.

He’s been WORTHLESS. Biggest moment of his tenure last night. He was WORTHLESS.

Jason Heyward has now been here and been terrible long enough to take the full brunt too. The guy is a liability at the plate and sometimes in the field. He’s not good enough to be a major league starting Right Fielder PERIOD. Jason Heyward has been absent in RF.

The Braves Outfield is culpapble and has been probably since Andrew Jones left town… and he wasn’t that great at the end either.

Frank Wren has failed miserably to field an outfield that can actually play.

Roadsterron

September 28th, 2011
11:57 am

One thing that Lowe would be good at is BARTENDING!!!!

NagoyaBrave

September 28th, 2011
11:57 am

Most blame goes to Fredi. It’s his team, and like the others have said, I’ve witnessed some head-scratching moments after some of his moves. But I also remember as a kid when Bobby Cox was an inept manager 30 years ago. So, I have to cut the guy some slack. Still, his fault. He’s the head, the brains behind this freak show we’re witnessing.

Reality

September 28th, 2011
11:58 am

The colapse has been so complete it’s difficult to generate any enthusiasm for what may come in the next game and possibly the next week, let alone next year. Epic downer.

Delbert D.

September 28th, 2011
11:59 am

The Washington Nationals are mostly to blame.

MatthewH

September 28th, 2011
12:00 pm

Even though I voted for Lowe, that’s just for September. I really think we need to look at how the bullpen was used all season. We might not have thought much of it, but an overworked bullpen in July leads to a bullpen underperforming in September.

Even so, I blame the ASG.

kappellmeister

September 28th, 2011
12:00 pm

I cannot BELIEVE all the “fire fredi” comments. really? REALLY? they are in contention for the wild card on the last game of the season. Had I told you that would be the case in April, would you not have thought that a successful season? What if I told you that Prado would hit .250, Heyward would plummet, and Jurrjens and Hanson would go down with a month left, and they STILL had a chance at the postseason, would you have said Fredi had a bad first season???

Carlton

September 28th, 2011
12:00 pm

1.) I blame Lowe’s DUI
2.) I blame Chipper’s ego (lose a ground ball in the lights..really??)
3.) I blame Heyward forgetting how to hit
4.) I blame the Omar Infante trade
5.) I blame Martin Prado not hustling
6.) I blame Fredi for not keeping Jorge Constanza on this roster and starting
7.) I blame Frank Wren for thinking Kawakami would be the next Japanese sensation..and paying for it, literally and figuratively
8.) I blame Frank Wren for not dumping Derek Lowe earlier, I think we ALL saw this coming

Should I keep going?

ATL Fan

September 28th, 2011
12:00 pm

You lose 2 All-Star caliber starting pitchers off any team, it will be very difficult to win at the major league level. Atlanta’s formula for success is, or has been, pitching-first with timely hitting.

insert witty name here

September 28th, 2011
12:01 pm

I will blame Dan Uggla’s size youth large jersey.

IlliniBrave

September 28th, 2011
12:01 pm

I just don’t think you can “blame” Prado, McCann, or Chipper, because their troubles all stem from nagging injuries. And although he frustrates the hell out of me, you can’t really crap on D-Lowe – the man is way past his prime. Not his fault that he was over-signed and over-paid.

I put most of the blame on management and leadership – Wren and Fredi and the coaches. Their moves, or lack thereof, either did not work or were insufficient to the cause. I personally would like to see a complete sweep of the clubhouse coaching staff.

PMC

September 28th, 2011
12:01 pm

Hanson and Jurrjens will never ever make it through a season.

They are far to soft to make it as big time starters. Sore arms…..and done year after year.

Fred

September 28th, 2011
12:01 pm

Lots of comments about coaches, management, etc and that’s really understandable and I agree generally. I’d more specifically point to the lack of trying more hit-and-run situations, more bunting runners over, maybe just throwing the rule book out the window—more squeeze plays in bases loaded situations :P . The team strikes out a lot, but what the hell.

Crnkbait

September 28th, 2011
12:02 pm

Derek Lowe and Dan Uggla would be the players I would point to, Larry Parrish and Roger McDowell as coaches and overall Frank Wren for not getting any pitching support by the trade deadline. Think that Fredi has done well with what he’s had to work with.

Slammin Sam

September 28th, 2011
12:03 pm

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