Braves are hoping to change the postseason script

Chipper Jones is the only remaining Brave from the last team to win a playoff round. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Chipper Jones is lone remaining Brave from the last team to win a playoff round. (Brant Sanderlin)

As much as there will be grand proclamations Friday night — because that’s just the way things function in this 24/7, hyperventilating, turbo-Tweeting sports world — let’s start with a little perspective:

If the Braves defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the Wild Card game — a best-of-one? — it shouldn’t be taken as a sign that they’re absolutely destined to win 11 more postseason games and the World Series and will make people forget the ’27 Yankees, and if they lose to the Cardinals it won’t wouldn’t affirm that the Kenshin Kawakami signing has forever cursed the franchise (although that one might be worth studying for a while).

It’s just one game.

But isn’t it about time for a new script?

We’re all familiar with the mixed-emotions math of the Braves in the 1990s and 2000s: 14 divisions, 5 pennants, 1 World Series. Too small a number at the end for such a big number at the beginning.

But particularly alarming of late is where a string of miserable Octobers has gotten them. The Braves haven’t won a playoff series since 2001. Chipper Jones is the only holdover from that club, which swept Houston in the divisional playoffs but lost to Arizona in the NLCS.  Jason Heyward was 12. Kris Medlen, tonight’s starter, was a largely ignored high school shortstop and pitcher in California.

The roster has almost completely turned over. So associating this team with most of the previous 10 — save last season’s — really isn’t fair.

But a win certainly would act as some sort of spiritual cleansing for everybody else.

“We can’t worry about all that,” catcher David Ross said following Thursday’s workout. “We’re just trying to win a game. We know we’re good. We won 94 games. Everybody in here thinks we have a chance to win a World Series. But we have to win this one.”

Through the roster transition, the Braves have had a steady uptick in regular-season victories over the past five years: 72, 86, 91, 89, 94. At some point, there needs to be success in October to validate all this, certainly for general manager Frank Wren. But the question is whether we can draw many conclusions from this playoff-ette against the Cards.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez is calling it, “Game 7.” But it’s Game 7 without six games of buildup and six games of revelation about what this team is, or can be.

“I think it’s unfair, win or lose, to draw a conclusion,” Gonzalez said. “I think you judge a team over the course of 162 games, and the way they’ve battled some adversities, the critics, all the [things] that have been thrown at us for the last year, really. That’s the way you judge a team. [Friday’s] game, anything can happen – a bad hop over somebody’s head, a ball lost in the shadows, somebody gets hit with the bases loaded. Crazy stuff.”

This much is certain: Too often the story has been: They lost. Seldom has it been: Wow, look at what they did in October. Fair or unfair, one win would begin to change that perception.

Ross is correct: This is a team capable of winning it all. It’s certainly not worse than the St. Louis team that made it in as a wild card with the final spasm as the Braves were completing a 10-20 implosion, then went on to win the Series.

They have the starting pitcher (assuming this Medlen fantasy ride continues). They have enough offense, even with Brian McCann banged up and struggling. They have Craig Kimbrel in the bullpen. They have Heyward, Martin Prado, Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla playing well. They have Michael Bourn and Andrelton Simmons back from injuries.

Now they just need to win Game No. 163. It wouldn’t mean everything for the future. But it would provide at least a hint of affirmation about what they’re headed.

The Braves won six more games than the Cardinals, but they’re not going to complain about a one-game series.

“We would’ve been in this game last year,” Eric Hinske said. “So you can’t hate on it too much.”

When the Braves didn’t make it last year, we wondered what it meant. It turned out the team that came back this season was pretty good. But a loss on Friday would extend a streak that already has lasted far too long.

By Jeff Schultz

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147 comments Add your comment

Dum-Bass

October 4th, 2012
5:07 pm

Forecast for Friday, high 84degrees, gametime 82, with no chance of rain. Mostly sunny. Therein lies the one problem. Hope this one game is not decided by one lost flyball into the sun in RF.

Steve

October 4th, 2012
5:08 pm

Go Bravos!!!!!!!!!!

Stuart

October 4th, 2012
5:11 pm

Go Bravos. Get it done

T-Bone

October 4th, 2012
5:21 pm

Time to start a new streak!

Sonny Clusters

October 4th, 2012
5:30 pm

Whew! We was glad to see this considering the play-in starts tomorrow at 5:07 PM. We was wondering how they decided on 5:07 because that seems like an odd time to begin something but it may be because the play-in is as strange as the starting time. We know this, Delta is ready when you-know-who is. Let’s hope he misses the first few weeks of deer season.

Stinger2

October 4th, 2012
5:31 pm

This Braves team won 94 games. Only 3 other MLB teams won more. Quite an accomplishment which deserves kudos from all of the true Braves fans. Regardless of the outcome tomorrow, Fredi and the players can say they left it all on the field. I hope the people who have been so critical with their comical nonsense will back off now.

Sonny Clusters

October 4th, 2012
5:38 pm

Wow! A new stalking record! Only 1 minute. Congratulations, little buddy! By the way, what does leaving it all on the field mean? Is that anything like “play ‘em one at a time” and “in any other ballpark that’s a home run”? We think you maybe should be writing on here with Jeff and a bonus now is that a lot of the AJC writers work from the house so you could wear your pajamas while you’re writing.

Birdhair

October 4th, 2012
5:38 pm

Dr. Phil

October 4th, 2012
5:40 pm

The 5:07 start ensures that many out of town Braves fans (like me) will be stuck in traffic when the game starts.

Sonny Clusters

October 4th, 2012
5:48 pm

Speaking of nonsense, how do we determine who the “true” fans are? Is that the pajama wearers? We go to the games and follow the team on television and love good baseball. But, somebody says we’re not a “true” fan because we also demand excellence. Jeff pointed it out . . . in spite of all the little signs in the outfield that would make you think otherwise, the Braves haven’t won a playoff series since 2001. Now, true fans everywhere know that more of the same means more of the same results and that’s good enough if you like to say “we won more games than Houston and Miami and most everybody else – but not Washington who won our division”. Well, there are small minds and bigger minds and there are awe struck fans and fans who aren’t so much awe struck. In any case, nice pajamas.

Birdhair

October 4th, 2012
5:51 pm

At least cocks isn’t managing in the playoffs for us any longer. FG should be considered for manager of the year, seriously. Playing Ross tomorrow is one heck of a move that may not be popular, but it’s the right one. Ross is playing very well lately. Mac, hurt or not, hasn’t been good.

Stinger2

October 4th, 2012
5:53 pm

Someone asked about “what leaving it all on the field means”. To that person my answer is you must not be a real sports fan. To introduce them to the term it simply means they played their guts out and gave it all they had,

Stinger2

October 4th, 2012
6:03 pm

There is one little guy who post on these blogs who thinks he is being cute talking about others who simply want to give this Braves team the proper respect and congratulations for a job well done. Let this one continue to try to be funny and keep his little mind occupied. Go Braves!

"Chef" Tim Dix

October 4th, 2012
6:21 pm

I believe a close loss or win will give fans a greater insight into what our manager brings in strategy. BC was perceived by most to sit back and wait on the 3 run homer and be too loyal. They’re probably right on loyalty part but he really managed every game very carefully. So we shall see how Gonzo plays it.

Sonny Clusters

October 4th, 2012
6:30 pm

We suppose if he’s going to call us “little” we’re going to have to change and call him “tiny” :-) . Seriously, this is not much fun anymore. Every time we post something tiny tulip shows up and tries to be our mama and tell us how to think. We have to say thank you for explaining another tired old sports cliche to us like we don’t know what it means. It is the way ballplayers talk because they have no real communications skills. We can see where it would work for Tiny, too. We are going on sabbatical. Many of the bloggers on here we enjoy so much will probably understand. Stalking is creepy and stalkers even more so. The Green River Killler was a lot like this and we don’t want to find our too late that our tiny little buddy was a serial killler. So, have fun everybody. Clusters out. Stalker wins. There are some sick puppies out there.

Sonny Clusters

October 4th, 2012
6:30 pm

We suppose if he’s going to call us “little” we’re going to have to change and call him “tiny” :-) . Seriously, this is not much fun anymore. Every time we post something tiny tulip shows up and tries to be our mama and tell us how to think. We have to say thank you for explaining another tired old sports cliche to us like we don’t know what it means. It is the way ballplayers talk because they have no real communications skills. We can see where it would work for Tiny, too. We are going on sabbatical. Many of the bloggers on here we enjoy so much will probably understand. Stalking is creepy and stalkers even more so. The Green River Killler was a lot like this and we don’t want to find our too late that our tiny little buddy was a serial killler. So, have fun everybody. Clusters out. Stalker wins. There are some sick puppies out there.

Sonny Clusters

October 4th, 2012
6:32 pm

Whoa! That’s twice today. Double your Clusters for the same price. Sorry, Jeff. We are on the way out anyway. Turn off the lights for us when you leave.

Answer this

October 4th, 2012
7:31 pm

Yea you right not since 2001….well things change starting Friday! Its our turn in the ATL! The Braves set the mark! It starts with them and then it filters to the Falcons and yes to the Hawks! Its our turn! We deserve it! We are true fans who live and die with our team(s) so its our turn! Our turn to be the darlings! Our turn to be the ones talked about! Our turn to have the magic! Our turn to have a hero walk off in the sunset! Our turn to beat the odds! Our turn to say we did it! It took guts, passion and heart but we did it. ITS OUR TURN!

Rambunz

October 4th, 2012
7:35 pm

I like the Braves to deal (with) them Cards. Pretty clever for a cracker, huh?

abby normal

October 4th, 2012
7:37 pm

I still hate this one game play-in BS. The Braves won six more games than the Cards and it means nothing. If MLB wants a second wild card team, at least make it two out of three.

Chipper = HoF

October 4th, 2012
8:30 pm

Dear Atlanta Braves roster,

Among all else, remember…win one for the Chipper.

bulldogbubba

October 4th, 2012
8:35 pm

Mr Clusters – Don’t let someone else kill you “freedom” to speak your mind. We need your “real” comments about the Braves and not the fluff others spread. We should all be free to speak the truth. Don’t leave Jeff hanging he needs you to keep his blog going.We don’t want him to have to find other work!!!! GO CLUSTERS! GO BRAVES!!!

JSS

October 4th, 2012
8:55 pm

Clusters , why you call yourself “WE” ???? You are 2 or more??

Larry

October 4th, 2012
9:19 pm

“I think it’s unfair, win or lose, to draw a conclusion,” Gonzalez said….[Friday’s] game, anything can happen – a bad hop over somebody’s head, a ball lost in the shadows, somebody gets hit with the bases loaded. Crazy stuff.”

Sounds like Fredi is already prepared for his postgame interview where the liklihood of his horrific in-game, situational management skill could have the fans thinking of Spring Training tomorrow night.

Hopefully this very capable and talented team can out-hit and/or out-pitch their pinheaded manager. Just stay out of the way, Fredi!

Wilbo

October 4th, 2012
9:52 pm

October = Braves suck. Why break tradition?

Freddie is Bobby

October 4th, 2012
10:10 pm

Gonzales is a Cox twin. Both guys look at the regular season as the true measurement of success and the postseason as a crapshoot. These guys were made for each other and deserve one another’s postseason failures.

JR1967

October 4th, 2012
10:23 pm

This game is basically the Braves vs. the Cardinals and their 20,000 or so fans that will be with them at Turner Field. The rest will play itself out-either the Braves will win and move on, or the Cardinals will win and we will hear the typical “You gotta tip your cap” to the opposing winner.

Birdhair

October 4th, 2012
10:27 pm

Nah, booby cocks would play mccann and he’d pull medlen too quickly and throw turdbin and venters

NorCal Brave

October 4th, 2012
10:46 pm

Braves got here by dominating their division, something they haven’t done maybe ever. I give them credit for winning consistently against Phils, Fish, & Mets and pretty much breaking even with Nats. Admittedly anything can happen in one game, but if the offense disappears like it’s done so often, I don’t like our chances.

j

October 5th, 2012
1:57 am

PLEASE let us win this one

Spud

October 5th, 2012
2:18 am

The AZ Cardinals lost to St. Louis last night. Let’s hope the St. Louis Card’s lose tonight!

John Leonard

October 5th, 2012
2:38 am

Its real simple,hit and score some runs and we win.

Stinger2

October 5th, 2012
3:58 am

Wilbo and Larry: Some people are considered smart when they don`t say anything.

blake

October 5th, 2012
4:00 am

“They have the starting pitcher (assuming this Medlen fantasy ride continues). They have enough offense, even with Brian McCann banged up and struggling. They have Craig Kimbrel in the bullpen. They have Heyward, Martin Prado, Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla playing well. They have Michael Bourn and Andrelton Simmons back from injuries.”

kinda questioning how you rattle off all those names for Braves fans to feel good about the teams chances and you don’t even mention Chipper.

C’mon Man!

P Rose

October 5th, 2012
5:37 am

It was, of course, the Cards who sprinted to the finish line last season, eclipsing the Braves’ seemingly insurmountable lead; and it was those same Cards who eventually won it all.

It would be sweet redemption for the Braves to exact revenge this season by knocking those same Cards out in the one-game playoff.

On the other hand, it would be exceedingly bitter to lose to them — again.

Don’t let the Cardinals own you, boys — go out there and win this one! Shut ‘em down, Medlen and Kimbrell.

And Chipper: this could be your last time to shine, boy. Whatever you do, make this one count. Be a hero. Go out a champ. You deserve it. And you can do it.

[...] Braves are hoping to change the postseason script [...]

Braves will win...i sure they will..oo

October 5th, 2012
6:30 am

Figure be 20,000 claim be cardinals fans there after all they really Braves folks but when st.louis comes they turn coats over and say we are st.louis fans then….lets hope we keep them quiet all game too….then they slowly creep out to cars n return as Nats fans of course….lol….so medlan pitch’s as been all year he win game..unless all sudden cards pitcher is Bob Gibson now….well fellow startin is close enough to his style….its goin be a Hot dog hold the mustard n onions Game at sold out Ted today….So lets all cheer wave make noise and chant..we need upset the Indian protesters again like did in 91 n 92 remember…..I still think they need remove the 2 tomahawks off sleeves and return the Smilin Face Brave on sleeves too!

Thomas Brown

October 5th, 2012
6:38 am

The Braves cannot hit the baseball.

David

October 5th, 2012
6:45 am

Braves lose today, Chipper heads to Hooters, and fans hope Liberty Media sell this team.

Thomas Brown

October 5th, 2012
7:09 am

Liberty Media, what a joke. Almost as much of a joke as Bulldogs fans acting like we’re going to something tomorrow night for ESPN GameDay, now that all our Bulldogs are TV Announcers and Analysts, by beating a team who plays Georgia, Clemson and LSU. And, like acting Florida is any bloody good with games to play against LSU, Georgia, FSU and South Carolina. Neither South Carolina nor Florida makes the Top 10. We will; they won’t.

If the Braves are hoping to do something about the post-season script without hitting or a manager, or owners; Georgia is trying to do something without even playing a top team all season. It sure ain’t going to be South Carolina. Oh, well, I guess we can expect another 10-42 SEC Championship Game appearance to come back on this blogs, and read the DISNEYdawgs.com say how well we played for 10 minutes to start, and brag about us making it to the SEC Championship Game like # 19 for UGA and # 9 for South Carolina who beat us, throwing our QB around like a RAGDOLL fumbling the game away twice and threw a pick-6 interception, makes us a better team than South Carolina.

And, Florida averaging # 75 in the nation at every NCAA stat except running the football, is a football team.

Yeah, right.

You’re the problem with our fans nowadays in here acting like we’ve arrived :

0-9 last 9 games against SEC teams who made winning SEC record
0-7 last 7 games against teams who made Top 10

- not beat team making Top 10 after # 9 Auburn in 2006, 7 yrs ago
- not beat SEC team made winning SEC record starting KY 2007, 6 yrs ago

Did I mention Georgie tek is # 36 national university and NCAA PROBATION FOOTBALL 2012

Robert

October 5th, 2012
7:22 am

@Thomas did you not read the article? This is a Braves article not a Georgia Football article. You must be a Cocks fan, so I understand!!!

Shug

October 5th, 2012
7:43 am

Are you out of your mind? You think a win in a play-in game will somehow purge the Braves of their nearly 2 decade history of choking underachievement in the post-season? Winning this year’s World Series will help soothe the feeling, but even that won’t change the past wasted opportunities.

jake d snake

October 5th, 2012
7:50 am

Let’s not forget the most important thing. This game is being played on a Friday, not a Monday. That gives the Braves the edge they need.

Call It Like It Is

October 5th, 2012
7:52 am

Sorry not excited. Have seen this way too many times. Years of Bobby Cox pissing it away in the post season and nothing has changed. With the talent we had, any other coach would have had 3 or 4 rings on their hand. We have 1 and something like a thousand division titles. “Kissing your sister.” Now we got Fredi, so far havent seen much change. Braves lose tonight, bank on it.

Gary Tanner

October 5th, 2012
7:55 am

In listing all the positive things they’ve “got,” Chipper Jones was not mentioned. Surely a mistake of oversight?

Thomas Brown

October 5th, 2012
8:02 am

Robert, your post is about neither, just a Flame post.

Thomas Brown

October 5th, 2012
8:03 am

Chipper Jones : POSITIVE

For his 14 million dollars 2012, he has 1 homer run per million.

Thomas Brown

October 5th, 2012
8:11 am

By the way Robert, all day yesterday on a blog which said nothing about the Braves, all of us talked about the Braves. And, that post is mostly about the Braves.

Thomas Brown

October 5th, 2012
8:12 am

The facts are NEITHER the Braves nor Georgia is going to do anything 2012, whether you like it or not.

Falcons will.

Now, criticize me for talking about the Falcons twerp

Thomas Brown

October 5th, 2012
8:19 am

- since 2001 wins 9 losses 15 in play-offs Braves

- since 2001 wins 3 losses 13 vs teams made Top 10

no difference, whether Robert likes it or not.