Is it time for Braves’ fans to panic? Nah, I say bravely

Melky Cabrera's not giving up. Who's with Melky? (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Melky Cabrera's not giving up. Who's with Melky? (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

The lead’s down to 3 1/2 games, and Nate McLouth had nothing to do with the most recent failure. The Braves were set to oppose Stephen Strasburg on Tuesday and wound up getting shut out by Miguel Batista and some Nat relievers. And now you’re asking: Is it time to panic?

And I’m saying: Nah.

Esteemed colleague Tim Tucker said something profound 20 years ago. (Tim says something profound pretty much every day, but this pearl of wisdom is particularly germane.) Quoth Tim: “When you think about it, it’s never time to panic.”

And that’s true. All panic brings is hyperventilation, and who needs that? Panic is what drove the Braves to trade for Len Barker in 1983 — they were desperate to see and raise the Dodgers’ acquisition of Rick Honeycutt — and we know how that worked out. The Braves wound up missing the playoffs and, owing to loss of Brett Butler and Brook Jacoby, hurt their team for years.

Here’s where we take a deep breath and say: This is baseball. Teams get hot and teams get cold. The Braves were fine as of last Thursday, when they completed a series victory over the first-place Padres. They’ve since lost three of four, two of the losses being walk-off jobs in Florida.

And the Brave can do nothing about the Phillies. (Who were, let’s recall, barely above .500 this time last week.) If Philly wins every game from here on, the Braves aren’t going to finish first. But nobody’s going to win them all. It’s baseball, remember.

What the Braves have to do: Keep playing the way that built them the lead. Keep stringing quality starts and good at-bats together. Keep grinding, as they say. They’re still 3 1/2 up (four in the loss column). They still have the biggest lead of any division front-runner save Texas.

If Frank Wren can consummate a useful trade, that’s great. If not … well, the guys here were good enough to have constructed a seven-game lead only six days ago. These guys are still good enough. And it would be folly to try and match Philadelphia if it should land Roy Oswalt. That name again: L-E-N B-A-R-K-E-R.

You’ll recall that a certain correspondent with a penchant for being wrong last week offered eight reasons the Braves wouldn’t blow their lead. You’ll note that I didn’t say they’d win by 15 games; I just said they’d hold on. I believed that then. I believe it now.

See, I’ve come to believe in these Braves. Three losses in four games haven’t changed that. They’re still in front. They’re still the team to catch.

And even if they should get caught by the Phillies, all would not be lost. The Braves have never availed themselves of it, but I hear baseball has this thing that gets you into the postseason even if you’re not a division champ. I believe it’s called the wild card.

There’s a lot of baseball to be played, and the Braves have played inspired baseball for more than two months. There’s no reason to think they’re about to stop. Have a little faith, I say.

248 comments Add your comment

Rest in Peace, Mr. Tatum

July 28th, 2010
8:03 am

Of course it’s time to panic. The Braves blow two ninth inning leads in the past week and lose a game to the woebegone Nationals. Wasn’t it about a week ago that someone wrote a smug article about a Phillies writer saying that the Phils ought not be too concerned about the Braves. Water seeks its own level, I guess.

Dylan

July 28th, 2010
8:03 am

Big Al

July 28th, 2010
8:04 am

The Braves will be fine as long as they continue to dominate at Turner Field.

BoroBall3

July 28th, 2010
8:05 am

One game at a time… and I frankly dont care if I’m first on thsi blog… one game at a time… good read Mark

MR

July 28th, 2010
8:05 am

First….if they are to win this thing they had better start hitting with runners in scoring position. They should have swept the Marlins but we all know they cannot beat the bottom feeders of the league.

F-105 Thunderchief

July 28th, 2010
8:07 am

Oh, I don’t know. I’m starting to get an April-y feeling. Hope it passes soon.

Turtsnap

July 28th, 2010
8:08 am

Am I first for once?

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

July 28th, 2010
8:08 am

i’m a little concerned, especially after watching the braves lose 2 of 3 to the fish and get blanked by a 39yr old who hasn’t won a game in 2yrs. glaus is worrying me as well, with his leg injury and his production has dropped off. time for another pep talk with bobby.

Rick Behenna

July 28th, 2010
8:09 am

Hey, what was I … chopped liver? Wait, don’t answer that.

Vinny D

July 28th, 2010
8:09 am

The Escobar trade was important to keep the team together but a spark from a new CF would be nice. Its time to start getting Glaus a lot of rest, wouldn’t mind seeing Freeman called up to let ol Troy take a load off. We need him 100% in a few months. I still say play Diaz more!

Evan

July 28th, 2010
8:09 am

The Phillies are old (in baseball terms), and I dont just mean Moyer, they’ll fade toward the end of the year. Their door of opurtunity is being closed on them.

Turtsnap

July 28th, 2010
8:10 am

Of course not!!! Oh well….

But MB, I do feel they need to pull the trigger on a trade like NOW. Don’t need to sell the farm, just another stick in the OF is needed. I almost feel, too, that they could package Troy Glaus for another bat. Glaus won’t be here long term, and he apparently peaked a month ago, but we could still get some trade value for him?

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley and LaTonya Story, Sundeep Kothari. Sundeep Kothari said: RT @MarkBradleyAJC: The lead over Philly is down to 3 1/2 games. Time for the #Braves to panic? Nah, I say bravely. http://bit.ly/9dCKTD [...]

BRAVESFAN1979

July 28th, 2010
8:11 am

Seems as though everytime this blog has something optimistic to say about the Braves, they begin to play horrid. So, yeah between your optimism jinxing them and the fact that the Phillies are on fire right now, I am way concerned.

Glaus and Prado need rest, and the team needs another bat if they are serious about a good postseason run.

Chief Hittabatta

July 28th, 2010
8:12 am

I start to panic when they blow 9th inning leads. Bringing McLouse up in the first place really screwed with this team’s chemistry. And why the HELL didn’t WE get Nyger Morgan???

Herschel Talker

July 28th, 2010
8:14 am

MB:

Good call. But let’s hope that this little stretch makes Wren a little worried and thus a little more serious about getting a bat. Glaus is an unmitigated disaster again. With all the injuries (e.g., Corey Hart), who’s at the top of your list right now?

HT

TO MANY OPPORTUNITES WASTED

July 28th, 2010
8:15 am

THE BRAVES WILL BE ALRIGHT BUT THESE ARE THE STEPS TO KEEPING THIS LEAD OVER PHILLES AND THE REST….
1. NO MATTER WHAT SCORE WITH RUNNERS ON BASE (MARLINS)TOO MANY OPPORTUNITES TO SCORE
2. CALL UP GREGOR BLANCO
3. PUT INFANTE IN THE LINEUP MORE HE HAS BEEN HITTING GOOD AS OF LATE.
4. DONT PANIC THE BRAVES WILL WIN TODAY WITH TIM HUDSON ON MOUND, THIS WILL JUMPSTART OUR OFFENSE. FOR EXAMPLE 8-0 VS PADRES (DID YALL FORGET)

Truedat

July 28th, 2010
8:17 am

It was fun while it lasted. Phillies will be in first within two weeks and will never look back.

buck strickland

July 28th, 2010
8:18 am

As usual this is YOUR fault MB! “8 reasons why these Braves will NOT squander this lead”

Thanks Jinx Boy!!

TommyP

July 28th, 2010
8:18 am

This team has overachieved, let’s face it. Lots of people get irritated with Bobby’s managing but this is one of his best jobs ever. This is a lineup that you could’ve seen in the late ’90s in Pittsburgh.

3B is an aging veteran that is breaking down all the time.
1B is a guy signed off the scrap heap at Dollar General that has had his moments but is streakier than Kelly Johnson.
SS is a journeyman that is normally signed by someone right before spring training on the cheap.
OF is a collection of 4th outfielders/utility guys and one rookie phenom.

The pitching is very good but this is a team with so many flaws. I thought a middle of the order guy in LF was the answer until CF never got solved.

Time to panic? No.

Time to make a move? 30 minutes ago.

I say enjoy the success we’ve had ’cause I just don’t see this team winning the division and will be lucky to squeeze the wild card out.

meh

July 28th, 2010
8:19 am

need to get Glaus hitting like he was in June. Hopefully he’ll come out his slump before too long. They need to start giving Infante some more starts in LF and let Hinske spell Glaus at 1B from time to time. Maybe if he stays fresher he’ll start hitting a little more.

Atticus

July 28th, 2010
8:22 am

Mark, Glaus is a vegetable again and Chipper at 3rd is a liability. This lineup overachieved but to count on the offense playing the way it did right before the break is just foolish. This team does not have enough offense and for all the talk about how great the pitching is, Lowe and Hanson are mediocre right now. Bullpen is great. The Phillies are the better team on paper and over 162 games will still show it unless the Braves find some life out of Glaus. I agree with the above they need to play Infante more too. They should’ve gotten Dejesus before he got hurt, not sure there is a move that makes sense now. I haven’t seen Adam Jones play this year but I know he has the talent and is on a horrible team.

Marty Keough

July 28th, 2010
8:22 am

this team will finish 3rd in the east – at best

P Rose

July 28th, 2010
8:23 am

Can we get a government bailout to get us out of the disastrous McLouth and Kawakami contracts?

Donny Corleone

July 28th, 2010
8:23 am

The sky is falling.

Brad in Jasper

July 28th, 2010
8:23 am

Baseball is truly the game of inches. Look at the NL East teams records against each other. For the most part it’s a wash. Yeah, the late losses at Florida sucked, but how many of those type games have the Braves won this year? More than their share. It’ll be tight all the way in, like most divisions. They’ll be aahight.

Ben

July 28th, 2010
8:24 am

Im of the opinion that we should play for now and make a move for a good hitting outfielder. trade a prospect if you have to. my only requirement would be that this person not be a one and done this year

P Rose

July 28th, 2010
8:25 am

Chemistry: there’s that word again. I hate to say it, but everything was sunshine and roses until the shortstop swap. I was tired of Yunel’s act, and I like Gonzalez, but… I’m just sayin’.

Navigator

July 28th, 2010
8:26 am

MBradley, Wrong!! The Braves better be in the front lines of the Oswalt hunt, because their starters are not the best and most of us knew that. If Philly gets Oswalt the pennant race is over, and Wren saying he’s afraid the impact the make up of the team, what? Grow some big ones man, because upsetting this lazy bunch is exactly what the Braves need, and of course the Braves throw away a whole season to allow Cox to have his fair well tour, are you kidding me? Losers do that not champions.

extremus

July 28th, 2010
8:26 am

I don’t often copy and paste earlier posts, but I thought I’d repeat what I said earlier this morning:

Since the All-Star break the Braves have been looking disturbingly shades of April in key situations, particularly with runners in scoring position and in situations where the pitching had normally been leaving opponents on base. They are now officially BELOW .500 since the All-Star break, and that fat lead they had over the Phillies is now down to 3 1/2 games.

Getting McLouth out of the lineup was much-needed, but it’s far from the only problem needing to be addressed; this team is playing flat right now. Glaus just can’t be depended on if you define “streaky” as “I’m going to give you a month or so of good hitting followed by three where I’m going to stink it up”. The nightly game of musical chairs in the outfield has been exposed as a weakness; the Braves’ only truly everyday-caliber player out there is Heyward. Chipper Jones is like the Third Stooge after Curly left the trio (meaning he’s a shadow of what he used to be). Even Martin Prado has hit a wall, it seems; his frustration is evident.

On the pitching side, you have Hanson’s sudden inconsistency, two straight blown appearances by Billy Wagner, Chavez and Kawakami are taking up two bullpen spots that could go to someone who WOULDN’T torpedo the Braves’ chances every time they step on the mound, and even Kris Medlen has looked very human after all that time off.

Not only do I believe a trade for a SOLID, everyday bat is in order; I think it would be an excellent time for a team meeting right now to regain some focus and fire before hopes of a 2010 Braves playoff run go up in smoke.

bob

July 28th, 2010
8:27 am

Panic is not the right word.

Action is the right word.

This team needs some speed at the top of the order. Nate was supposed to provide some average speed and never did. Shafer was supposed to be the speed of the future and he disappeared after his HGH and wrist problem.

The Braves need someone who is able to swipe 30+ bases from the leadoff spot.

Prado should be batting in the two hole, Jay Hey in the three hole, and McCann in the four hole.

Chipper and Glaus need to hit some homers in the five and six spot.

P Rose

July 28th, 2010
8:28 am

Tim Hudson will stop the madness tonight against the hapless Nationals. It’s good to have a sure-fire stopper in the rotation.

WonderDawg

July 28th, 2010
8:30 am

You know, early on, I enjoyed the Braves’ patience at the plate, working the counts, etc. But now, every batter is 0-1 or 0-2 before they get the bat off their shoulder. Pitchers have obviously adjusted, but the Braves haven’t.

Ted Striker

July 28th, 2010
8:31 am

Playing scared never helped anyone. And Bobby Cox won’t let them play scared.

SKB

July 28th, 2010
8:33 am

Braves lost to Florida
Braves LOOSING to WASHINTON

man, what happened, if you can’t even beat Washington, then plz quit baseball.. I see Phillies overtaking the braves within the next few games. Braves had a few fluke wins, and now will return to its underwhelming medeocre self.

Skeezix

July 28th, 2010
8:34 am

The offense has been and still is my biggest concern. Hopefully Wren will bring in a good stick. Last night the hitters looked a little tight, like maybe they feel that Phillies freight train rolling behind them and picking up steam…… But, yeah it’s too early to start wringing our hands. Altough I wish him well, I am glad McOut is outta there and I hope we don’t lose Venters for 4 games.

Tami

July 28th, 2010
8:35 am

Of course it’s time to panic. The Braves blow two ninth inning leads in the past week and lose a game to the woebegone Nationals. Wasn’t it about a week ago that someone wrote a smug article about a Phillies writer saying that the Phils ought not be too concerned about the Braves. Water seeks its own level, I guess.

I agree. It’s frustrating to watch the 9th inning leads fizzle against teams they should be beating. The other frustrating thing with this team suddenly? The runners left on base! Come on! The Braves should be beating their opponents into submission several times over. It’s not that they can’t get on base. They can’t score! What’s up with that? No. I haven’t lost faith…yet. But, knowing how well this team can play, and seeing them underachieve suddenly is completely frustrating. How many times in recent days has this team caused me to scream at my TV screen, scaring my poor cats to death? Arrgggh! Ok. I feel a little better now.

BamaBill

July 28th, 2010
8:37 am

It’s not time to panic, but the issue of obtaining and/or (calling up from the minors) some offense is becoming imperative. I don’t know the exact stats, but I would be willing to bet that we are at or near the top of the league in runners LOB.
We need some power in CF, and some relief at 1B. I agree that Freeman should be called up (and will probably when rosters expand), but we still need a another good bat. They are out there..

SimpleDawg

July 28th, 2010
8:39 am

Glaus had his month of fame….now he’s back to the bargain basement guy.

Martin has become waaaay too predictable…..takes the first pitch 90% of the time, swings at the second pitch 80% of the time, unless the first pitch was a called strike, then he swings at the second pitch 95% of the time. He usually is 0-2 to start almost every at-bat. His batting average is falling like a rock.

Gonzalez hasn’t hit anything since he came to the Braves.

Infante needs to play at least 3 times per week at third base…..Chipper will be better with less playing time.

Hinske should be platooned with Glaus at first.

Diaz needs to play more….let him platoon with Melky in left.

Blanco should be our everyday center fielder.

Venters needs to be the closer…..Wags can no longer be counted on to deliver in the clutch.

Derek Lowe is like a box of chocolates……..

Hanson….ditto. If he continues to show the batters the ball so prominently, he’s going to continue to have trouble getting good hitters out.

Ted M

July 28th, 2010
8:40 am

I thought we were doomed for sure until they sent McLouth down. Hudson will win tonight. We might get spanked by the Reds in Cincinnati though. Perhaps will then spank the Mets at home.

curtis jones

July 28th, 2010
8:40 am

Thanks to the ineptitude of other NL East teams, the Braves could still win it, or be the wild card team…though unlikely to advance past the first round.

1. Chipper is no longer a major league caliber 3rd baseman or #3 hitter. He never will be again. Leaving him in those spots will cost the Braves, and it’s all because of the HOF manager’s legendary loyalty.

2. Do you really want Glaus at the plate with men on base? He had a good month. Happy trails, big guy.

3. Other than McCann and Prado, the best clutch hitters on the club are Infante, Diaz and Conrad. They reside on the bench.

4. Starting pitching is good, not great. Again, can you count on Derek Lowe or Kris Medlen in a playoff game?

5. Much like last year, the HOF manager is allowing the roster to be clogged with game-losing, worthless minor league “talent.” At the end of the year, let’s figure up how many games were lost single-handedly by Kawakami, Chavez and McLouth. Should be interesting.

Realistically, the Braves have been held together by Wagner (who’s tiring), Hudson, McCann and Prado. Any month-long DL injury to any of these guys, and the party just might be over.

AJC-Hating Braves Fan

July 28th, 2010
8:40 am

Is it time for AJC Management to panic due to historically low readership and a near-complete alienation of the literate and educated citizenry of the city in which the firm attempts to do business and remain financially viable?

Verily.

joe

July 28th, 2010
8:40 am

Bradley, you are a total jinx…since you boldly proclaimed the Braves would win the division, they have lost something like 4 games in the standings…and they stopped hitting. Thanks…

The other Tommy P

July 28th, 2010
8:41 am

The Braves do not need Oswalt…they actually do not need another starting pitcher. If they decide to make a deal it will be for another outfielder. Thanks Mark…you are right… no need to panic here. Phillies are hot right now…but give them time, they’ll cool off again and so will the Mets. Be worried about the Marlins…good pitching in the end will win the East and Wild Card!

Braves are not playoff material!!

July 28th, 2010
8:41 am

panic, it is time. says Yoda.
How quickly we have dropped in one week. Now contemplate, if you may, where we will be if we continue to play like this for one more week. panicking can bring things in to perspective and make yo realize exactly what one may need to do in a situation…now will the Braves realize what they need to do? or will they hang their head (like in the past) and act like whooped dogs? I’m guessing they will act like whooped dogs and pout in the locker room. While Bobby continues to give dumb quotes on how well they played. This is not a play-off team. This is not a WS team…they will get their rear ends handed to them.

Greg White

July 28th, 2010
8:42 am

OMG BRADLEY! Why do you detest this team so much!!!! That’s twice now that you’ve jinxed these guys.

Dick's Dungeon

July 28th, 2010
8:42 am

Hanson needs to work on shortening his wind up, or else all players, not just fast ones, will steal bases on him. He doesn’t have the luxury of taking so much time.

It's all over we're doomed blah blah blah

July 28th, 2010
8:42 am

Gotta love your typical Braves fans. Can’t spell simple words like “loser” yet they know how to manage a team better than a guy who’s done it for over 30 years. Go ahead and freak out because that’s all fair-weathered fans do. Hey, maybe you clowns can jump on the Tampa Bay bandwagon since they are playing well again.

Sonny Clusters

July 28th, 2010
8:43 am

It may not have been McLouth after all.

Sonny Clusters

July 28th, 2010
8:44 am

Chipper was flashing some deerskin out there last night.