5 Norton-free reasons the Braves won’t make the playoffs

Last season he won a batting title. This season he's under .270. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Last season he won a batting title. This season he's under .270. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

1. Every preseason gamble on position players failed except the platoon in left field. Because the Braves spent the winter redoing the rotation, they took chances with their everyday eight. They hoped, perhaps against hope, that Jordan Schafer was ready and that Jeff Francoeur had recovered from his funk and that Kelly Johnson’s second-half surge in 2008 wasn’t an aberration and that Casey Kotchman could actually drive in some runs. Only one of those men is on the roster today, and the one (Johnson) lost his position to Martin Prado.

2. Chipper Jones began to show his age. He was hitting .335 before the game on June 10, at which point this correspondent proclaimed him “as splendid as he ever was.” He’s hitting .268 now. Moral of story: You never want ol’ MB to write something nice about you.

3. Derek Lowe wasn’t as good as the Braves hoped he’d be. He’s 13-9, which isn’t terrible. But his ERA is 4.34, which marks a career worst as a National League pitcher, and opponents are hitting .294 against him — nearly 50 percentage points higher than they hit last season.

4. Bobby Cox overused his bullpen. Three Braves relievers — Peter Moylan, Eric O’Flaherty and Mike Gonzalez — rank among the league’s top seven in appearances. (And this for a team that has received 84 quality starts, second-most in the majors.) It would be one thing if all this work had resulted in a lockdown bullpen on the order of Hammond-Remlinger-Smoltz, but it hasn’t. The 2002 relief corps blew 11 saves. This one has 20 blown saves. The 20th came last night, as you doubtless know, Rafael Soriano wasting another strong Tommy Hanson start.

5. Nate McLouth didn’t deliver. Of the three major in-season trades Frank Wren made, this had the greatest potential of sparking the entire offense. But McLouth, who has had an iffy hamstring, has played in only 61 games over three-plus months as a Brave, and he’s hitting .263 with an on-base percentage of .351.

And, just for the heck of it: Greg Norton. Regarding the question, “Who’s the worst Brave ever?”, we have a new leader in the clubhouse.

397 comments Add your comment

Smart Jay

September 10th, 2009
12:28 am

Smart Jay

September 10th, 2009
12:33 am

Mark, you are clearly correct on all counts. Why managers no longer want to allow anyone to get a complete game, I dunno. I suppose if we’re out of the race, Bobby wants Soriano to be able regain some confidence, but, if we’re trying to win games – there is something going on with Soriano and he shouldn’t be coming in with only a 1 run lead. Shame Hanson getting screwed out of rookie of year by the bullpen.

JP

September 10th, 2009
12:35 am

Norton, Bobby Cox, Kelly Johnson, Most of the bullpen, have to go. we are in a hole now with so much cash in on Kawakami and Lowe. To heck with the braves and their cheap as.

TomB

September 10th, 2009
12:42 am

Why is it I want to blame every loss now on Cox? With a four run lead, he leaves Lowe in for eight runs to be scored on him in one inning – Cox was waiting on the ground out. Calling on Norton to pinch hit late vs the Marlins, and now using Soriano when Hanson was pitching brilliantly. I would have left Hanson at least until an Astro reached base. I know the 90’s run was great with Cox, but I no longer believe.

BugKiller

September 10th, 2009
12:54 am

Norton is only terrible because COX keeps on using him!!!

Still, there is no way Norton is the worst ever. It just feels that way.

Willie Martinez, on the other hand… (had to get that in).

BravesFan79

September 10th, 2009
12:55 am

Norton by far isnt the worst Brave ever. I think that title goes to Corky Miller or Chris Woodcrap. BOTH were given WAY more chances than Norton has this year.

Ostrich Racer

September 10th, 2009
12:55 am

It always comes down to pitching and defense up the middle. Put ten of those blown saves back, and look where we’d be. Reverse the effects of the centerfield fiasco (albeit mostly from an offensive standpoint), and we’re leading by a mile — even in a bad year for Chipper. On paper, the only thing that should have been an obvious no-go was Schafer — but nobody was saying that after the homerun opening night in Philadelphia. Getting McLouth seemed to be the right answer; it just didn’t work out. Bobby can still manage, Wren will be a great GM, Chipper is still very valuable to the team, and Lowe is still a number one starter. The bullpen is a train wreck, but that’s mostly a question of talent and approach rather than overuse. (I’ll say it again — bring back Leo!) As for Norton — okay, I’ll give you that one. At least Pat Rockett could field his position.

Andrew

September 10th, 2009
1:04 am

Mark

I saw Bobby on TV after the game saying usally his bullpen does a great job and you always want the closer to start an inning clean ( bases empty) 20 blown saves is that a great job where does that put our bullpen in NL in blown saves. Also If anyone watched that interview he avoided the question of why he took Hanson out. He just said you always want to start the closer in the beginning of the inning. I forgot where in the rule books is says the closer cant come in and get two outs in the 9th or one out in the 9th if your starter gets in trouble. Worst manager excuses I have ever heard. You could tell in the dugout all the players knew soriano was going to blow another one. Bobby you had a good run its time for you to go.

Ed-Covington

September 10th, 2009
1:04 am

Good post, MB, as usual. Always wondered if Wren asked the Pirates about McCutcheon(?) before they settled for McLouth.
Doesn’t Norton still have a .300 OBP? The problem may not be that he’s still on the team; maybe he should be starting! (JUST KIDDING!)
As for Chipper AND McCann, I’ve always been a fan, but this past month, while other players (Albert, Ryan Howrd, etc.) stepped up, they stepped off. Their (& McLouth’s)lack of production is the real reason the Bravos are missing the post season; not Cox, Soriano, Norton, Lowe, Kawakami, Wren or any of the other reasons everyone claims.

Mark Bradley

September 10th, 2009
1:09 am

Enter your comments here

gotigers72

September 10th, 2009
1:27 am

I hope Bobby chooses to resign and the Braves don’t have to fire him. I would like to see him go out with class, but I want to see him go, PERIOD. I have always taken up for Bobby in arguments with people who are Braves fans and those who are not Braves fans. But his moves this year AND last year have convinced me that it is time for him to retire and go work the farm. Continuing to use Norton as a pinch hitter, and continuing to use Soriano recently are just signs that he may be deteriorating. Sorry BC, you were great, but all of us lose it eventually.

Lower the BOOM!!

September 10th, 2009
1:42 am

Worst Brave ever?

Do managers count?

One World Series title be damned!

tim

September 10th, 2009
1:55 am

Nate McLouth has worked when healthy.

The Braves underperformed so much early in the season, that it took an overhaul of the roster and a major second half surge just to stay on the fringe of contention.

Wait until next year.

bigdawg

September 10th, 2009
2:46 am

When will major league decision makers like Bobby cox and Roger McDowell realize that pitch counts are good in little league and school ball to protect youngsters from zealous coaches. The Braves have blown game after game that could have been won by going one more inning from the starter (who in most cases wer sailing right along) but we decide to go with our superstar bullpen. Superstar bullpen is my version of sarcasm. Bobby needs to settle in on the farm and let someone else try to get the bravos to the postseason for a while. Bobby was one of the best but he is now his own worst enemy. I have heard people say that he has earned the right to manage for as long as he wants but I ask you if I quit producing tomorrow how long would it take for me to be replaced in my job. It all comes down to production and we haven’t gotten it from Chipper, Bobby, Rafael Soriono, Derek Lowe, Kelly Johnson, Norton, and nearly every one of our setup men in the pen. Time to blow this thing up and retool the position players. See what you can get for Chipper on the market, make McLouth and MCann the face of the position players and Jair and Tommy Hanson the backbone of your rotation.

Crapper John

September 10th, 2009
2:54 am

Actually,I think O’Flaherty, Moylan, and Gonzalez are all actually doing better since the all-star break despite the number of apperances. Soriano has been the weak link.

W L ERA G SV SVO
Moylan – Before All-Star 2 2 4.62 49 0 5
Moylan – After All-Star 4 0 0.38 28 0 0

Gonzalez -Before All-Star 3 2 3.43 45 9 13
Gonzalez – After All-Star 0 2 0.75 26 0 2

O’Flaherty -Before All-Star 1 1 3.34 47 0 2
O’Flaherty – After All-Star 0 0 3.14 20 0 0

Dave

September 10th, 2009
2:59 am

Nate McLouth NEVER had the potential to spark the entire offense! He is a .261 career hitter with one solid season under his belt. The trade was a desperate move by a team unwilling to spend the money to land the good players.The only reason he even got to be an All-Star is because he played for the Pirates, and the league requires at least one player from each team. I would compare it to him being the best-smelling turd in the Porta-John.

I wasn’t sold on the deal then, and I am certainly not sold on it now.

S.S – Someone refresh me on what we gave up for this scrub.

Dave

September 10th, 2009
3:00 am

Oops, meant P.S. It’s late, typos happen.

Boo Boo

September 10th, 2009
3:09 am

I saw a picture of a Pittsburgh Pirates fan holding up a sign that said, “I wish I was a (Detroit) Lions fan”, after they broke the record for consecutive losing seasons (at 19). Tonight I wished I was an Astros fan. As young as Hanson is, if he is ever to pitch a complete game, tonight was it. Bobby Cox just got my vote for being fired. If he coaches Thursday in a Braves uniform, I am no longer a Braves fan. I mean, when you have position players wussing a whole three hits in nine innings, the best offense you have is a pitcher than can throw a shutout. Only a manager too old to know how to manage would make that change, unless Hanson told him he was done. Without Cox, and with ONE good hitter for power (30+ homeruns, 100+ rbi), no pitcher in the Braves rotation would have less that 12 wins, with Vazquez and Jurrjens having 18 apiece. All the talk about trading Lowe is foolish. He’s the only pitcher that seems to be the hitting charm for those ladies playing the field. Bring out the pink tutu’s and trade the whole pitching staff to anyone close to being in the playoffs. They deserve more.

Coach (2010 or Bust)

September 10th, 2009
3:12 am

Unquestionably, this is the worst single season of managing by Bobby Cox in his long history with our Braves. The man has to retire or be forced to.

That said, I am not optimistic for next season. For many reasons.

The outfield is a freaking disaster, platoons be damned. The defense is below average to poor at best. We have three premium position players in McCann, Escobar and McLouth. Chipper is on the slow boat to retirement. There are too many left handed bats and not nearly enough right handed power hitters on the team. Small ball has gone the way of the Dodo bird and the running game is nonexistent. Soriano, Gonzo and LaRoche are likely to hit free agency. So could Tim Hudson if he so chooses. If not, Javy or Kawakami has to be traded.

And last but not least. The vast majority of the fans recognize the need to dump Bobby Cox, although his players love him. Also, the vast majority of the players absolutely despise Frank Wren and I have that info first hand. My personal confidence level in our GM is somewhere between : do you want fries with that? and when will the WWE offer the man a job?????

Boo Boo

September 10th, 2009
3:26 am

Greg Norton certainly sux, but he has an injury excuse, which kept him from playing the whole season. A pinch hitter needs to get some regularity to stay sharp. Norton never got going … twice. I still have chills when I remember Ernie Johnson saying, back in 1978, “Here’s Cito Gaston. Cito’s due.” But good ole Bobby Cox never gave up on Cito, just like he hasn’t given up on Norton.

Vol85

September 10th, 2009
3:51 am

Mark– you are correct, but in spite of all this as recently as a couple weeks ago the Braves looked like they were on an end of season charge that just might bring them a wild card playoff spot. Wren’s acquisition of Adam LaRoche had certainly paid off, and this, coupled with the outstanding work at the plate in late July and much of August by Prado, Yunel Escobar, and Brian McCann, plus the move of Matt Diaz to the leadoff spot seemed to indicate that post- Labor Day baseball might be worthwhile. But then timely hits began to disappear as fast as they had come and, worse yet, the bullpen (specifically the closer role) began to show an inability to nail down games or keep opposing batters at bay in the later innings. BS does not just stand for blown save with this group– especially when it comes to Soriano and Gonzalez. As so many have said about this year’s edition, they (the Braves) are a team that will win 2, lose 3 and then turn around and win 5 and lose 3.

On a brighter note, Greg Norton does have more hits, 10 in 69 ABs, than Derek Lowe, 9 in 45 official ABs.

Robert Barron

September 10th, 2009
4:35 am

MLB needs what the NFL has: contracts written where a team can drop an underperforming player after a year but he keeps the signing bonus.
The owners were fools not to demand this during baseball strikes and lockouts. Except the Yankees don’t want it so they can spend their way to a title as they have this year.

Robert Barron

September 10th, 2009
4:40 am

Doesn’t the Norton problem fall on Frank Wren for not overruling Bobby? Wren can’t trade Vazquez because he needs the reminder to us of what he did get right. What kind of year is ex-Brave and the pride of Brunswick having? His 18th win last night.

Crapper John

September 10th, 2009
4:51 am

The offense going stone cold during key stretches this season has really hurt. Seems like when we lose, we’re lucky to score one run.

Mitch C

September 10th, 2009
4:59 am

Mark, I’m sorry to say “I told you so”, but I did. If you remember a couple of weeks ago, when the Braves went on that good run for a while, you told me, and others, that you thought the Braves had a good chance to make the playoffs, and I told you I didnt think they would. I’ve been a Braves fan for 27 years, and I’m sorry to say, I was right about them not making it.

2009 is history for the Braves, save for the fact that the schedule says we have three meaningless weeks left to play.

A question: As you probably know, Jeff Schultz posted a blog yesterday saying that he thought the Braves will have to trade Javy Vazquez this winter, for financial reasons, because Lowe is virtually untradable with his contract, and having three years left on his deal. Do you think the Braves will trade Vazquez, or do you see a way to perhaps trade Lowe, or someone else, and keep Javy?

JD

September 10th, 2009
6:08 am

Bobby Cox won all those games because he had the players to do so, not because of his managerial skills. Last night was the last straw with me.

JD

September 10th, 2009
6:11 am

Enter your comments here

JD

September 10th, 2009
6:12 am

Bobby Cox has won all those games because he had the players, not because of his managerial skills.

NCBravesFan

September 10th, 2009
6:21 am

Last night was painful to watch. Hanson was so dominant, and you hated to see it all go up in smoke the way it did.

I’m certainly not in the “Cox is moron” camp by any stretch, but it really is time for a new face of the franchise in the manager’s office.

As for Chipper, the Braves’ number one priority this offseason has to be recasting the offense so that when Chipper is out we don’t miss a beat in scoring runs. We’ve come to rely on him far too much over the years, and that is simply not a good idea anymore.

No silly name here

September 10th, 2009
6:26 am

Mark, I will give you five more reasons:
1. B. Cox
2. Bobby Cox
3. Bobby C
4. BC
5. Bobby “DA” Cox
Last night was a joke. Hanson could have finished

Carroll Brave

September 10th, 2009
6:48 am

Baseball season officially ended for me last night when Bubby took out Hanson. Go Dawgs, go Falcons and go Tech (until November 28). And I never thought I would say this but go Bobby Cox (GO HOME)

TampaGator

September 10th, 2009
6:50 am

I watched Bobby Cox keep 14 great division winning teams from winning more than just one World Series title. I again watched Bobby Cox prevent one of the games best young pitchers from pitching his first major league shutout last night…and the Braves from winning a game they had to win. Only Bobby Cox would have pulled Hanson in that game. And only Bobby Cox lost that game last night for the Braves. This is the same man that brought in lefty Charlie Leibrant in to face Kirby Puckett in the the 6th grame of the ‘91 WS for the Braves. Bobby Cox is a preventer of championships, not a manager who wins them. He is the most overrated manager in ML history. All the Astro players and even their manager were happy when Hanson was pulled. It gave them hope and energy to win the game. Nice move, Bobby!!!

I Have Questions

September 10th, 2009
6:57 am

Could you compare the 91? (worst to first season) Braves pitching, hitting, and fielding stats to this year’s Braves. The current Braves (from my memory) are as good as if not better than the 91? (worst to first) Braves.

Coach (2010 or Bust)

September 10th, 2009
6:59 am

Mitch C, there is the slight possibility that Javy could stay. Hudson’s option for 2010 is mutual, meaning Hudson could forego his buyout and declare himself a free agent.

Otherwise, Hudson and the Braves both exercise the mutual option, he stays and Javy or Kawakami have to be traded. This are a ton of reasons not to drop Kawakami even though he is the weak link in our rotation. Such as politics, Japanese fan base, reasonable contract, ticking off the entire landscape of Japanese baseball, etc.etc.etc.

Personally, I hate trading pitching but the Braves will probably have little choice. We bought low on Vazquez and it looks like we will sell high, which is a good thing in itself.

The American Dream

September 10th, 2009
7:05 am

If the Braves don’t get funky like a monkey soon they gonna be drunk as skunk and end up sitting at home watching reruns on the tube of me giving the nature boy a leg drop. A good player gotta have a good manager. I kicked old Sapphire to the curb when she wore me out. Old Bobby needs the old Dusty finish right bout now. Everyone come out to see my next bout. I’ll be wrestling a tag team match. My partner–Mark FM Bradley– and I will be working over Greg Norton and Kelly Johnson at the Dairy King parking lot in Fairmount. Norton has requested the use of a bat in the ring but I ain’t scared because he couldn’t hit a darn thing with a bat whether on the field or in the ring with a legend. Now everyone needs to come out to watch a true American sport and stop wasting their lives watching the Braves. See yall at the Dairy King. God bless America!!! and God bless Chris Rude!!!

Coog

September 10th, 2009
7:10 am

Worst Brave: did you forget Pepe Frias??

MiltonDawg

September 10th, 2009
7:15 am

You could’ve summed up our whole season by watching last night’s game- Braves could muster up only 4/5 hits & 1 run- looked like a special ed team out there and then have bullpen implode. Do like the Falcons..have a fire sale, get rid of the old (including managers) & bring in the new.

KT

September 10th, 2009
7:16 am

The only good thing about them tanking this year, is we finally might get rid of Bobby Cox’s ass. Why could we have gone after Joe Torre, two years ago? God help us if Cox leaves and they give Terry P. the job.

bull-gator

September 10th, 2009
7:23 am

Keepers (in no particular order): Escobar, Diaz, Infante, McCann, Prado, Jones, LaRoche, Vasquez, Hanson, Jurjens, Gonzalez, and O’Flaherty. Everybody else, including the manager and coaching staff, hit the road.

ches

September 10th, 2009
7:23 am

When was the last time a Braves pitcher was allowed to pitch a complete game?

lin

September 10th, 2009
7:24 am

every good player can have a bad year and this was chippers and nortons. as for last nite game i can not believe bobby would not let tommy h. try finish i knew it get blown by pen. and i am not surprised we not make the playoff

Born2Buzz

September 10th, 2009
7:32 am

If you didn’t think it was time for Bobby to step down, last night should have convinced you.

While Frank Wren did a good job of rebuilding the rotation he has hamstrung the team for next year with the contracts to Lowe and KK. It’s going to be hard to get a solid lineup next year as well. Wait for 2011.

And MLB is just F’d. For one team to have a 200M payroll and another to have 15M just doesn’t make for good competition. Bud Selig and Bobby both should go byebye.

ME AGain

September 10th, 2009
7:36 am

Thank you Captain Obvious. I’ve known they wouldn’t make the play offs since May. Worst Brave ever, for the record, has to be Nick Esasky.

Phil

September 10th, 2009
7:40 am

Well, if last night was not the perfect example of why we need to get rid of this buffoon, I don’t know what is.

What was wrong with letting Hanson pitch the 9th??????? He had just cruised through the 8th, his pitch count was around 100. Why didn’t Cox let him try and get the complete game???

Afer the game Joe Simpson and Ron Gant were saying the same thing, that Hanson should have been allowed to try and finish the game and they were disappointed that Bobby did not give him the chance.

You people need to wake the hell up about this moron. It’s time we get rid of this idiot once and for all!!!!!!!

curtis jones

September 10th, 2009
7:40 am

Mark Bradley has discovered the Braves won’t make the playoffs, and just repeated verbatim what we’ve been blogging for months. Log on tomorrow, when Mark discovers unemployment is up, Teddy Kennedy is dead, and swine flu is bad for you!

Braves WIN, Braves, WIN, Braves...NEVERMIND

September 10th, 2009
7:44 am

Come on, where was your blast on Terry Pendleton. The Braves had EIGHT hits in the last two games, and two of those were from a pitcher.

Bobby Cox is a BOOB when it comes to filling out a line-up card. Chipper? Take a NAP, or maybe you can fly up to College Game Day this Saturday.

GO HAWKS

September 10th, 2009
7:46 am

FIRE TP. The Braves aren’t a hitting team eventhough they have the talent. The guys that perform well were coached elsewhere – minors or another team – and progressively get worse as braves.

Called it right

September 10th, 2009
7:48 am

I called it with a bunch of guys when I saw that Booby (Bobby) was taking Hanson out after the 8th inning. Hansen had just had a strong 8th and he takes him out for what. Would he have done that if it were Glavine, Smoltz, or Maddox, Of course not. Braves deserved to lose that game after not hitting once again, not allowing a young pitcher (who was under 100 pitches) to atleast start the 9th inning, and bringing in a closer who has done nothing to instill confidence the last 10 to 12 outings because he is tired. Way to lose a game for them Booby.

Mac

September 10th, 2009
7:48 am

Have the Braves been appointed the Ambassador to Japan? What’s with folks proclaiming Kawakami is untouchable because Japanese people will be ticked off if he’s traded? Weird. Very, very weird.

Disappointed

September 10th, 2009
7:51 am

Mark, are you just now figuring this out? Going into the season I thought they would finish 3rd in the division and maybe win 85 games. Too many holes in the lineup, etc, etc, etc… Bobby, you had a great run but it’s time to retire please.