Lousy call, lousy game, lousy system: A lousy Braves’ exit

This was a warm and fuzzy moment. The rest of the night stunk. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This was a warm and fuzzy moment. The rest of the night stunk. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Why to hate baseball’s newly minted play-in game: Because you can be, as the Braves were over the course of six months, the demonstrably better team and still give a performance that fuses the three-error Brooks Conrad game of October 2010 and the Epic Collapse of September 2011. Because you can go home having sipped from the postseason cup for all of 189 minutes. Because you can put yourself in position to be rooked by those darn replacement umps.

Wait. These aren’t replacements? These are the real umpires? Is this a real sport?

Had Andrelton Simmons’ pop that dropped been allowed to stand, the Braves would have had the bases loaded and one out. When you’re trailing by three runs in the eighth inning, that’s rather different than having men on second and third with two out, which is what they wound up having. But not before the game was halted for 19 minutes as the field was cleared of the cups and bottles that had been flung, with somewhat greater accuracy than the Braves’ infielders displayed this night, by incensed patrons.

Pete Kozma, the St. Louis shortstop, was positioning himself to catch Simmons’ meek fly when he stopped running and chose to leave it to left fielder Matt Holliday. And here we note the incongruity: A shortstop deferred to an outfielder on what left-field umpire Sam Holbrook adjudged an infield fly. It was a horrible call, indefensible at the moment and more ludicrous after further video review, but this is baseball and replay can be applied only to home runs. (The Braves registered an official protest. Summarily denied.)

And thus, in its first manifestation, was baseball’s play-in game rendered a bigger joke that it appeared on paper. A team that won 94 games is gone; a team that won 88 gets to go home and play twice against the National League’s No. 1 seed. One bad performance. One lousy bit of umpiring. Season over.

“You’ve got to judge a team over the 162-game season,” said Braves’ manager Fredi Gonzalez, classy in bizarre defeat. “Anyone can have one bad call [go against them] or one bad game.”

His team was guilty on the latter charge. The team that made the fewest errors among National League teams offered up three in the span of four innings, leading to four unearned runs. Each was on a throw, each by an infielder. First Chipper Jones, playing his last game. Then Dan Uggla. Then the aforementioned Simmons, a rookie shortstop at the center of nearly everything Friday night.

The errors turned a two-run lead — and Chipper, speaking before the game, had suggested the game’s first run could be the determinant — into a 6-2 deficit after 6 1/2 innings. By then the unbeatable Kris Medlen was gone, having yielded only three hits and two earned runs but about to become a loser as a starting pitcher for the first time since 2010. That left the Braves in comeback mode, and there were moments when they appeared capable of climbing the mountain. But Chipper swung at the first pitch and grounded out in the seventh with two men in scoring position, and Michael Bourn struck out with the bases loaded to close the infamous eighth, and Uggla, representing the tying run, ended the season by grounding to second.

Said Gonzalez: “We didn’t score runs, and we didn’t handle the baseball.”

Said Chipper: “You give a good team extra outs and it ends up lightning.”

To his credit, the man who will play no more faulted himself above all. “Ultimately when we look back on this loss we have to look ourselves in the mirror,” Chipper said. “We put ourselves behind 6-2. Three errors cost us the ballgame, and mine [a fourth-inning throwaway of a cinch double play] was probably the biggest. I’m not willing to say a call cost us the ballgame.”

Because he always been a stand-up guy, you wanted it to end better. Still, in his final at-bat the great Chipper Jones managed to block out the deafening ovation and the applause from the Cardinals’ dugout — he tipped his helmet to the crowd and pointed to the visiting team — and the flashes from camera-phones and remind us why he was so great. He worked the count to 3-2 against the heat-bringing Jason Motte, and finally he put bat on ball (breaking said bat) and legged out an infield hit. Down to his and his team’s final strike, he got a hit.

We’re lucky that, as time does its work, we’ll have our memories of Chipper Jones to keep us warm. And maybe someday we can get past the strange doings on a lousy night in October 2012, when a good team played badly and got unlucky to boot, and thanks to this silly professional “system” it was eliminated. At least in the College World Series they play double elimination.

By Mark Bradley

516 comments Add your comment

charlton head

October 5th, 2012
10:03 pm

disappointing, confusing, and heart breaking….well here’s to next season!

Bradley Curse

October 5th, 2012
10:04 pm

Looking less and less likely the Braves will win another world series in my lifetime. And at this point I might just take winning just 1 playoff series, just winning the Division Series would be enough for me.

Dave

October 5th, 2012
10:04 pm

I’m not watching the Braves anymore. Too much pain

Todd Grantham

October 5th, 2012
10:05 pm

Can’t blame Holbrook,but he ought to be fired immediately. That kind of call makes one wonder if an ump is betting on games.

Nas

October 5th, 2012
10:05 pm

What a waste of a season, F baseball

What next

October 5th, 2012
10:08 pm

Mr Bradley you think fredi job is safe.

Todd Grantham

October 5th, 2012
10:09 pm

The whole season in the microcosm of this game: Braves can’t hit in the clutch and shakey defense rears its ugly head at the worst of times.

Todd Grantham

October 5th, 2012
10:11 pm

Awful call too. hope Holbrook remembers his role in Chipper’s last game.

JWOOD

October 5th, 2012
10:11 pm

Fire Selig. Fire him yesterday.

felix the cat

October 5th, 2012
10:12 pm

bring on the dogs

charlton head

October 5th, 2012
10:13 pm

Todd Grantham: that was the confusing part…I’m not that familiar with baseball but it looked clearly like a dropped ball and voila! bases loaded but nooooooooooooooooo. I understand players having a bad game – it happens.

The Mighty Quinn

October 5th, 2012
10:13 pm

I realize that with all the farewell tour hoopla, it would be extremely awkward, but If I’m Chipper, I can’t let that be my last game. A total POS night by the Braves and the umps.

he hate me

October 5th, 2012
10:14 pm

PLEASE TRADE HEYWARD while we can get something for him!

Todd Grantham

October 5th, 2012
10:14 pm

Chipper’s got to be one of the classiest guys ever to play baseball. It would have been so easy to rip Holbrook.

BravesFan1001

October 5th, 2012
10:14 pm

Very disappointed in this game. Thought several times we could come back, but it was not to be. Glad to see Fredi got angriy about the call. So did all of us watching. You said it very well, Mark. Thanks. And I sure will miss Chipper.

Biff Pocoroba

October 5th, 2012
10:14 pm

If Simmons wouldn’t have bunted with the pitcher on deck earlier, it would have never come down to that play.He did the same thing earlier this year and cost the Braves the game then too. Not Ready Fredi obviously doesn’t learn from his mistakes and needs to go. I’m glad that his BFF Uggla made the final out since Frediot insisted on sticking with that loser all year.. He benched him for two games and then felt so guilty that he had to stick back out there to cost the Braves the game. Fredi needs to head back to Miami permanently. At least I get to return my ticket for Sundays game and get my money back now instead of having it go for Uggla’s salary.

F the Umpire

October 5th, 2012
10:15 pm

really? and the TBS announcers really pissed me off too! for years they criticize atlanta fans for not selling out early round playoff games, and now we pack the house and react with passion at one of the WORST sports’ calls I’ve ever seen. Done with major league baseball tv this year!

Moobs Johnson

October 5th, 2012
10:15 pm

The NHL being led by Bettman is the only thing keeping MLB from becoming fourth on the sports ladder behind NFL, NBA, and hockey.

ken

October 5th, 2012
10:15 pm

Are we really sure it wasn’t actually Angel Hernandez, CB Bucknor or Country Joe West disguised as Holbrook? Actually MLB really needs to get rid of umps who make consistently bad calls instead of running them out there year after year. Holbrook should be disciplined for his mistake and sent home for the rest of the playoffs.

Braves fan

October 5th, 2012
10:16 pm

Who’s bright idea was it for this one game plan. No, you either make it to the post season or you don’t. Your record should stand pat. The Braves made it and they should have been playing one of the other 3 teams, not a one game lets see . If that’s the case then the Nationals should play one game and so should all the others then the season is over for all. This is a joke and should not stand. I’m done with baseball. They have managed to put the final out in the ruin of baseball. Its not any longer a fair sport.

rich

October 5th, 2012
10:16 pm

Yadier Molina summed it up. He said, “We played to win the game. They played to lose the game.” Actually that sums up the Braves post season performances for the past 10 years.

Todd Grantham

October 5th, 2012
10:16 pm

Mark, did the shortstop back off because he lost the ball or because he saw Holbrook signalling infield fly rule?

charlton head

October 5th, 2012
10:16 pm

Chipper for Baseball Commissioner!

BigDave

October 5th, 2012
10:16 pm

If this had happened to the Yankees you bet the system would be changed!

Prado4President

October 5th, 2012
10:16 pm

A few comments from the game.
1) Terrible defense played put the Braves in a bad position to win.
2) Despite the bad defense, the could and should be still playing according to this part of the rule: “When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare “Infield Fly” for the benefit of the runners.” This was in no way, shape, or form called immediately.
3) It’s sad to me to remember Chipper’s last at bat, although ending in a base hit, watching him loafing down the line. I love him, but don’t you want to be remembered for giving it all you’ve got your last at bat?
4) I won’t sleep tonight…sick to my stomach…

Again?!?

October 5th, 2012
10:17 pm

“legged out an infield hit” lmao. He wasn’t exactly hustling down the line.

John Remelius

October 5th, 2012
10:17 pm

The call ended up looking bad, but as numerous people & pundits who understand the infield fly rule and its application, the call was correct.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2012/10/05/infield-fly-rule-umpire-braves-cardinals/1616389/

Stuart

October 5th, 2012
10:18 pm

It’s OK, it’s a best of 7 series. That’s what baseball is all about. We still have the rest of the series to show them who is the better team. One call in one game doesn’t matter….. UNTIL NOW… F the one wildcard game that was somehow passed and everyone has been a fan of. F MLB and the owners for allowing a 1 game setup to happen in the first place. It makes more sense in ANY OTHER SPORT EXCEPT baseball. It’s why they play a best of 3 series even during the season. MLB better change this CRAP… BTW, I am a huge promoter of manners and discipline, but the fans should have thrown a whole lot more crap all over the field…

braveslover

October 5th, 2012
10:18 pm

Andleton is a rookie and played like one with running on the grass after an ill conceived bunt with the pitcher coming up to bat and bobbling a ball with the infield in and not throwing the ball to first to get an out. Uggiy proved again that he is not a big game player by having one error and only a great play by Freddie saved a second one. Chipper’s error is inexcusable other than physical errors happen. I think we might have watched Freeman become a man tonight as a baseball player. Gonzalez didn’t make any bone head moves and managered up by starting Ross. Crappy way to lose but three infielders have to live with it during the off season. Unfortunately this was not Chipper’s finest moment. Too bad for him and for the fans. Three years of Uggie left. That is depressing. This ending just doesn’t feel good. Good luck to the Cardinals; truth be told they are the better team.

r

October 5th, 2012
10:18 pm

at least when the Falcons lay a turd in the post season you don’t have to spend 6 months watching them beforehand

Matt

October 5th, 2012
10:18 pm

I refuse to spend any more money on MLB or any of its products until Bud Selig has been replaced as Commissioner. He is an absolute joke. All of his ideas been boneheaded.

G

October 5th, 2012
10:19 pm

Frank Wren needs to go. This organization is dated and he failed to get them in position to win these games.

T

October 5th, 2012
10:19 pm

Disappointing team, stubborn sport, terrible umpire. I’m out on the Braves and MLB.

HeyJay

October 5th, 2012
10:19 pm

Eff you Bud Selig and the umps!

skip carey (from the after life)

October 5th, 2012
10:19 pm

I finally have my revenge after all those years of answering that question….

Billy

October 5th, 2012
10:19 pm

Does anyone remember the Lum’s frisbee night back in the early 70’s.
All of the frisbees ended up on the field on a Pete Rose call.

Bob Weiss

October 5th, 2012
10:20 pm

What is the point to the whole protest system if they deny something so obvious and game-changing. A lousy way to end the season.

Paul

October 5th, 2012
10:20 pm

And let’s not forget on top of all of the above, three managerial decisions that Fruiti Gonzalez made that no one else in the Major Leagues would have even considered. No hope for us. Another major league CHOKE by almost every one involved including the great Chipper…

Prado4President

October 5th, 2012
10:20 pm

A few comments from the game.
1) Terrible defense played put the Braves in a bad position to win.
2) Despite the bad defense, the could and should be still playing according to this part of the rule: “When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare “Infield Fly” for the benefit of the runners.” This was in no way, shape, or form called immediately.
3) It’s sad to me to remember Chipper’s last at bat, although ending in a base hit, watching him loafing down the line. I love him, but don’t you want to be remembered for giving it all you’ve got your last at bat?
4) I won’t sleep tonight…sick to my stomach..

Birdhair

October 5th, 2012
10:20 pm

Personally, I am very disappointed because we wont have playoff baseball in the foreseeable future and that’s because we have frank wren. Tonight’s loss is sad more than anything.

I can’t wait until Frank Wren is fired. Until then, no more play-in games or playoffs. No hope.

KK failure. Drunk Lowe Failure. Dan Uggla Failure. Nate McOut failure. Bourn short term, mediocre player. $155M total spending wasted.

I wish atlanta fans would wake up and smell the coffee and call for wren’s head.

Jesse

October 5th, 2012
10:20 pm

What is ironic is the third base umpire would have never made that call. The extra umpires, that are not needed, made the call. In a regular season game the inning could have the been different.

Submariner683

October 5th, 2012
10:21 pm

Hate the system. Why play 162 games? How about baseball go to one game per week like football, and have the playoffs settled that way too. You play a whole season just to have to play one more, when you’re not tied, you were up 6 games in the win column. I wouldn’t like having to play the Astros for one game. Even the worst team in the league can beat the best on one give day, over a series it’s usually a little different. At least make it best 2 out of 3 like every other season series.;

Braves : The Latest Fuzz

October 5th, 2012
10:21 pm

[...] Lousy call, lousy game, lousy system: A lousy Braves’ exit – Atlanta Journal Constitutio… [...]

Tucker

October 5th, 2012
10:22 pm

Professional baseball. Professional wrestling. What’s the difference?

shorty

October 5th, 2012
10:22 pm

I’m am dissappointed in the way the Braves played…BUT I am happy to be a Braves fan ..The stadium fans showed alot of passion and threw political correctness to the wind..I know the media is going to be all over this night…but I for one say I don’t care what these pc media types say..I love my Braves and my fellow die hard fans.
And if something isn’t done to real in the umps…MLB is going to suffer greatly.

Beachdawg

October 5th, 2012
10:22 pm

When you fire Selig, take Torre with him. If he’d still been with the Yankees and this happened all Hell would’ve broken loose. For him to defer to the “umpire” who clearly blew the call shows that Torre is a company man now and doesn’t have the “stones” for the tough call. As a Braves fan, of course it’s a tough loss…..but a one game play off….Please..

Highly Respected Southern Troll

October 5th, 2012
10:23 pm

Who cares? This is nothing compared to the opportunities Bobby Cox (adored by Braves fans for reasons known only to themselves) squandered repeatedly back in the 90s.

cmac22

October 5th, 2012
10:23 pm

Glad the ridiculous Braves fans will have something to blame their loss on!! Lord knows they can’t blame the bats for leaving 12 runners on base or their pathetic defense that gave the Cards 4 runs. That being said, was glad to see Ross & Freeman actually show up, play & contribute!

Greg

October 5th, 2012
10:24 pm

Braves did what they have done best when it has mattered most for the past two decades. They choked. Twice as many hits, but half as many runs. 3 huge errors. 7 runners left on base in the last 3 innings…Chipper, then Bourne, then Uggla go to the plate with a chance to do something big. Bourne strikes out and Chipper and Uggla both ground to 2nd. Sure As the sun rises every day, the Braves choke in October.

cloudodust

October 5th, 2012
10:24 pm

I can accept the errors as part of the game which may lead to a loss. What I can’t accept is a bad call with 2 on and 1 out which SHOULD have been 3 on and 1 out and WHO KNOWS WHAT may have happened from that point. We”ll never know because of some chump ump that should be delegated to AA…and P*** on Torre’s call for the good of the game. IMO as of this minute, I would not be a part of the trash toss but I can accept the frustration from the fans. Hope those very same fans vote accordingly come NOV.