Well, here’s a cheery note. Sports Illustrated picks the Atlanta Braves, who had a lot of things go wrong last season and still won 89 games, to win 82 in 2012. (I’d offer a link, but SI.com hasn’t posted one yet.) This total, in SI’s estimation, will enable the Braves to finish fourth in a five-team division.
SI’s projected National League East finish:
More glad tidings: SI sees the Braves finishing with the 10th-best record in the 16-team National League and the 17th-best (tied with the Kansas City Royals, actually) in baseball. I believe I can speak for us all when I say: Yikes.
I’m on record as believing the Braves’ spring-training record — after a 1-10-1 start, they’re up to 6-13-3; if this were hockey, they’d have 15 points — means less than nothing, but Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports has written that (unnamed) “rival executives believe that [manager Fredi] Gonzalez … already is on probation.”
Given that the first real game is still 13 days off, we shouldn’t read too much into anything just yet. But it’s not unreasonable to suggest that general manager Frank Wren, who before this offseason wasn’t known for his patience, might be forced to do something soon — and I’m not talking so much about firing Fredi G. as making a personnel move or two — if his team looks tepid through April.
Wren likes his roster very much. He doesn’t think this is a fourth-place team. He thinks these Braves should win 90 (or so) games, not 82. But not everyone agrees.
By Mark Bradley