It isn’t just that the Braves aren’t hitting. It’s that they don’t look as if they’re ever going to hit.
Troy Glaus isn’t what he was. Nate McLouth isn’t what he was. Melky Cabrera was never anything special. Yunel Escobar seems to have regressed. Chipper Jones is 38. You tell me: Is that batting order ever apt to strike fear into the hearts of enemy hurlers?
Shed a tear here for Frank Wren. Presumably on orders from above, he keeps trying to put a team together on the cheap. But there aren’t many GMs who can bring that off — remember, John Schuerholz’s run of excellence was forged when the Braves and Yankees were trying to outspend each other — and Wren has evinced no signs of being a Billy Beane-counter.
What Wren did this offseason hasn’t worked. (Other than bringing up Jason Heyward, which was a no-brainer.) Javier Vazquez hasn’t pitched well for the Yankees, but wouldn’t you rather see Vazquez in the Braves’ rotation, as opposed to Kenshin Kawakami? Cabrera isn’t a starting outfielder. Glaus isn’t a starting infielder. Billy Wagner has been pretty good, but what’s the point of having Billy Wagner if there’s never a case to close?
The Braves are last, by a considerable distance, in the National League in hitting. They’re 10th in pitching. The 1965 Dodgers could win games 1-0, but there’s no Koufax or Drysdale here — or a Glavine or a Maddux or a Smoltz — here. These Braves have to hit, if just a bit, to win. And they can’t.
It has, granted, been only 22 games, but they’ve been 22 sobering games. Ten days ago the Braves staged as outrageous a comeback as any team ever has — the three-homer astonishment against Philadelphia’s Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras — to tie for first place in the NL East. They haven’t won since. They’ve scored 17 runs in nine games.
They’re last in the NL East. (They’re three full games out of fourth place.) They’re tied with the Dodgers for last in the National League. In all of the majors, only Baltimore has been worse. Even with Heyward working his wonders, his team has collapsed around him.
This is baseball. A good team can overcome a bad start. The 2009 Colorado Rockies were 9-13 after 22 games (and 20-32 after 52) and made the playoffs. But they had to fire their manager to do it, and that’s not an option here. Besides, you could look at the Rox and say, “That team’s losing, but it still has some players.” You can’t say that about these Braves.
This, sad to say, isn’t a very good team. It has some pitchers but too few hitters. As constituted, these Braves aren’t going to win anything.