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.
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