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

Felix

October 5th, 2012
12:37 pm

I never understood why Wholers didn’t throw him a 100 mph fastball. I see that hanger falling square into the fat part of Leyritz’s bat in my nightmares.

bitman

October 5th, 2012
12:39 pm

@Thomas Brown: Put a sock in it. You’ve spouted more than enough negativity for one day.

Felix

October 5th, 2012
12:44 pm

What I’d like to see today:
1. Win or lose, that Medlen pitches well.
2. Uggla do something big for once in a critical situation in an important game.
3. No stupid errors/mental mistakes that end up costing us the game.
4. Solid performances by the young guys who are such an important part of the future–Heyward, Simmons and Freeman.

Tumbledown

October 5th, 2012
12:51 pm

kirkinga -I think you can make an argument that the Braves never recovered from Leyritz’s smash of that hanging slider in ‘96.

That was a game-changer, so to speak. Those Braves’ teams of the 90s had a chance to go down as a dynasty of sorts, much in the same vein as the Cincinnati Reds of the 70s with pitching as the calling card verses the offense of the Big Red Machine.

Instead, the Braves lost and became a psychologically damaged franchise. A win in the 1996 WS and there would have been no questions condemning the franchise as falling short of their talent level. There would be exponentially fewer Bobby Cox detractors. All this change based on one slider and the Braves’ subsequent inability the remainder of the series to get that big hit (remember they lost Games 5 and 6 by one-run each in low scoring affairs).

But, this is a new day, with only Chipper linked to that 1996 series. The Red Sox overcame 86 years of futility. The Broncos won a Super Bowl after four losses. Various individual athletes in all sports have triumphed after experiencing failure. Time to put the past in the past. Go Braves!

beanster

October 5th, 2012
1:34 pm

I am a 4th generation St. Louis Cardinals (going back to the Browns) fan. My blood is a mixture of hemoglobin and Anheuser-Busch products and has been since birth. I’ve seen some magical moments in my years as a Cards fan, none more exciting than last year’s heroic game 6. Even though the Cards won one in 2006, I felt like St. Louis deserved the good fortune it received in the Series last year.

This year, it’s a different story. I hope the Braves win tonight. They deserve it. This one game play-in is silly. It’s unfair to the teams who did what they needed to do during the regular season, and not just the Braves. The 5th best team in the league gets an opportunity to get to the WS with the only handicap of one fewer game at home per series? That’s reaching if you ask me. I don’t understand why MLB chooses to toy around with a beautiful thing: October baseball. The wild card seemed weird but how else do you handle 3 divisions. The playoffs don’t need anymore expansion than that.

beanster

October 5th, 2012
1:34 pm

I am a 4th generation St. Louis Cardinals (going back to the Browns) fan. My blood is a mixture of hemoglobin and Anheuser-Busch products and has been since birth. I’ve seen some magical moments in my years as a Cards fan, none more exciting than last year’s heroic game 6. Even though the Cards won one in 2006, I felt like St. Louis deserved the good fortune it received in the Series last year.

This year, it’s a different story. I hope the Braves win tonight. They deserve it. This one game play-in is silly. It’s unfair to the teams who did what they needed to do during the regular season, and not just the Braves. The 5th best team in the league gets an opportunity to get to the WS with the only handicap of one fewer game at home per series? That’s reaching if you ask me. I don’t understand why MLB chooses to toy around with a beautiful thing: October baseball. The wild card seemed weird but how else do you handle 3 divisions. The playoffs don’t need anymore expansion than that.

Najeh Davenpoop

October 5th, 2012
1:35 pm

As long as they are patient and make pitchers work, they can go pretty far. Go Braves.

Skeptic

October 5th, 2012
1:40 pm

The Braves will honor Chipper by sending him out with their patented, Grade-A, choke-a-rama home loss. He’s been a part of that for years, don’t you think it fits? Let’s see–late season surge, check; starting pitcher on a streak, check; opportunity to stink up the home field, checkity-check. Looks like W/S ‘99 to me, except we crap our pants full in only one game instead of four straight. And, then someone can give Chipper “some Yankee stuff” to put on.

This will all transpire on TBS, of all stations, which couldn’t give a squirt of pi.$$ about Braves games the last few years, choosing instead to air “Crazy about Raymond”-a-thons. Sorry, Chipper. THIS is Braves Baseball. And Atlanta sports. You’re next, Falcons.

Wilbo

October 5th, 2012
1:45 pm

Hey, Stingie, check out these October numbers, baby!

Braves in last 8 World Series games 0-8.

Braves in last 9 postseason series 1-8.

Nuff said? Yes it is, thank you!

Thomas Brown

October 5th, 2012
1:49 pm

1-8 ?

Braves are 0-6 last 6 play-off series and 0-5 at Turner Field elminination games.

Sounds like UGA trying to beat teams who make the Top 10 at 0-7 since # 9 Auburn way back in 2006, which was 7 seasons’ ago now.

Billy Mumphries

October 5th, 2012
1:57 pm

Fredi is making a rational decision…nothing more. Leaders are supposed to, at the very least, make the best decision possible for their organization. This was not a difficult decision. McCann is not the player from the past. He is on a downward career performance trajectory.

Tumbledown

October 5th, 2012
2:03 pm

beanster – Thanks for your comments. The Cardinals have been a great franchise and have great fans. They truly deserved last year’s title. The rules say they are a playoff team and so they deserve to be competing once again for a title.

As a Braves’ fan, I simply want the Braves to win, and it just so happens the Cards are in the way today. The last great playoff performance by the Braves came against the Cards in 1996. Maybe that bit of positive history can help (must forget 1982 and 2000 playoffs, though).

Billy Mumphries

October 5th, 2012
2:10 pm

Beanster, a very fair-minded view. My first 32 years spent in St Louis now living in ATL. At many important games during 70 & 80s at the Old Busch. Broke in with Busch beer at the park and still buy Busch/Inbev products 100%. Watched Brock reach milestones there and caught fouls from Ted Simmons and,perhaps you won’t remember, Mike Tyson [second base traded to the Cubs later]. Also was there for the no-hit performance of Bob Forsch against the Phillies. Anyway, I apologize for the walk down memory lane.
Yeah,last year was the most unexpected run since I’ve followed the Cards and moments that will go down as some of the best in history. BUT, this WC format sucks. Medlen very well might shut them down, but it takes him out of a possible 2 starts in the next 5-game series. Big disadvantage for the WC teams having to use up their ACE right out of the gate. It is what it is.

Tumbledown

October 5th, 2012
2:14 pm

This just in. Having been informed of the various postings of the prophet Thomas Brown, the Atlanta Braves and Georgia Bulldogs have shut down for the remainder of their respective seasons. “There is no hope” was the common theme expressed by both Braves and Bulldog players.

Wutehvah

October 5th, 2012
2:26 pm

Perhaps J J will invite Thomas Brown over to the Playboy Mansion to pontificate on how bad the Braves suck.

Go Bravos!!

M.C. Antil

October 5th, 2012
2:39 pm

Thought you might light to read my reflections of the first time I ever laid eyes on a then 19 year old Chipper Jones. http://mcantil.com/chipper-jones-a-first-but-lasting-impression/

M.C. Antil

October 5th, 2012
2:39 pm

Thought you might light to read my reflections of the first time I ever laid eyes on a then 19 year old Chipper Jones. http://mcantil.com/chipper-jones-a-first-but-lasting-impression/

evil empire

October 5th, 2012
2:42 pm

history says…braves lose today…

beanster

October 5th, 2012
3:02 pm

@ Billy Mumpries – No apology necessary. I miss baseball as it is played in St Louis. Atlanta just doesn’t compare even though I try. You may have just one decade on me of memorable Cardinal games. We used to get to one or two games a year and I had a streak of never seeing the Cards lose until I was 13, and that included games of the ‘85 and ‘87 NLCS. One of my favorites was 4/20/87, my streak was on the line when Tommy Herr hit a grand slam in the 9th to beat the defending champion Mets team with Gary Carter, Strawberry, Gooden, etc. Even was lucky enough to snag a foul ball. To this day, Willie McGee is my hero.

Stinger2

October 5th, 2012
3:06 pm

Wilbo: The Braves records in the past mean nothing. What happens today, not yesterday or not tomorrow is what is important. Live for today

Terry

October 5th, 2012
4:11 pm

They’ve got pitching and at times they have hitting. The playoffs these days, never reflect how good or bad a team is, rather it reflects whose hot now. They’ve got a gamblers shot, but if I were betting I’d look at Oakland, they’re hotter than a $2 pistol right now.

crackhead

October 5th, 2012
4:22 pm

who dey playin

BravesFan79

October 5th, 2012
4:52 pm

Anyone else think the TBS coverage is awful, wtf were they just talking about the last 20 minutes..? because it sure wasnt the Braves or Cardinals.

Cletus Van Damme

October 5th, 2012
6:26 pm

Chipper’s error led to 3 runs (it should have been an easy double play). Then Simmons lays a stupid bunt down with the pitcher coming up.

What is going on here?

Mitch Kumstein

October 5th, 2012
6:57 pm

Put a fork in them…they are done!

Answer this

October 5th, 2012
7:18 pm

93 wins and this? How about fudge you Chipper for opening the gates simple easynot DP andsaid all 29 plus yearsthe of experience and u cant make a play and fudge you Fredi for that same sorry silly stupid fudging managing…..a squeeze with Ross @third? You stupid piece of dog crap! These trolls get to slaughter us because they know we are not worth a sack of burning dogcrap! Why? Because we cant win a game when its gift wrapped for us!

CGD..

October 5th, 2012
7:21 pm

Can you spell the word C-H-O-K-E?

Have we not seen this B4?

Answer this

October 5th, 2012
7:34 pm

I wont celebrate a guy who can make up for blowing the game swinging at the first pitch!

Answer this

October 5th, 2012
7:34 pm

I wont celebrate a guy who can make up for blowing the game swinging at the first pitch!

Answer this

October 5th, 2012
7:34 pm

I wont celebrate a guy who can make up for blowing the game swinging at the first pitch!

dean

October 5th, 2012
7:59 pm

Wow. One of the top 5 (the other 4 can’t have been that bad.) worst calls in baseball history. Mark it. October 5th, 1 out, 2 on in the bottom of the 8th of a 6-3 game in the first wild card game ever.

Skeptic

October 5th, 2012
8:03 pm

Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
Into the blue again, after the money’s gone
Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground
Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was
Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was

Answer this

October 5th, 2012
8:04 pm

Never seen a call that bad before and so obviously wrong! Incredible turn of events!

dean

October 5th, 2012
8:22 pm

It’s one thing to lose. It’s another thing to be stabbed in the stomach. Yes, I know there was no guarantee another run would have been scored, but you knew then the Braves were probably hosed.

Answer this

October 5th, 2012
8:33 pm

Answer this

October 5th, 2012
8:34 pm

If Uggla has done anything this year he can do something now!

Answer this

October 5th, 2012
8:37 pm

Bunch of SOB……SameOldBraves!

HUH?????

October 5th, 2012
9:31 pm

Our effing defense fell apart. Chipper, you SUCK.

HUH?????

October 5th, 2012
9:32 pm

“Chipper’s error led to 3 runs”

Yep. Medlen pitched great. Gave up 2 runs. Our bullpen was great.

Chipper, Uggla and Simmons are EFFING RETARDED.

JSS

October 5th, 2012
9:34 pm

Clusters is an oracle!!! “Live for today” and y’alls case die another ignominious post-season death!

superiorblogman

October 5th, 2012
9:51 pm

I really gained some love for my fellow Atliens tonight. Classy or not. I don’t blame them. I have never heard of a “Fly Ball Rule”. We all know the rule is name infield fly for a reason no matter what the MLB may tell you.

Hillbilly D

October 5th, 2012
9:52 pm

The Braves lost because they played poor defense and didn’t hit with runners on base. That being said, that infield fly was one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen and turned the game into a complete circus.

I’ve always wondered why when players perform poorly, they get sent to AAA. Why does the same thing never happen with umpires?

JSS

October 5th, 2012
9:54 pm

(FAKE) JSS
October 4th, 2012
8:55 pm
“Clusters , why you call yourself “WE” ???? You are 2 or more??”

You are fake user-name stealing, non writing, yelling, non-correct user of grammar and punctuation in a sentence idiot! I bet you were one of the clowns throwing debris and embarrassing Atlanta on TV!

Call It Like It Is

October 5th, 2012
10:01 pm

My post from 7:45 this morning. Once again same old Braves

“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”.

JSS

October 5th, 2012
10:18 pm

Hey Clusters, will your stalker admit that you were right?

superiorblogman

October 5th, 2012
10:25 pm

I agree we lost because of errors and not hitting with guys in scoring position. The ladder has been a problem of ours all year but the first just was a symbol of how weak minded this team is they choke. That is why that horrible call was so maddening because we all knew that we are fragile as a team anyway. We did not need the refs chiming in.

Hillbilly D

October 5th, 2012
10:42 pm

We did not need the refs chiming in.

This is baseball. They aren’t “refs”, they’re umpires.