The .500 Braves are facing change. But how much?

"I find this ejection unacceptable." (Curtis Compton/AJC)

“I find this ejection unacceptable.” (Curtis Compton/AJC)

"I find this ejection unacceptable." (Curtis Compton/AJC)

“I find this ejection unacceptable.” (Curtis Compton/AJC)

On the night of Sept. 15, the Atlanta Braves completed their downward journey to break-even. After 150 games, they’re where they were on April Fools’ Day. Then they were 1-1. They’re now 75-75. They’re no longer a winning team.

It was altogether fitting and proper that this inglorious moment came against the Washington Nationals, the one opponent they’d been able to handle, and Stephen Strasburg, the pitcher they’d come to own. Alas, these Braves have fallen so far that even those Old Reliables have been rendered moot. Strasburg pitched seven shutout innings. The Nats won 4-2 to pare their magic number for clinching the division to two.

And here was the deepest indignity: Afterward the Braves congratulated themselves for coming close. “You like the effort,” Fredi Gonzalez said. Also this: “We battled.”

I know how thin those words sound after Game No. 150 in a season where the Braves haven’t hit a lick, but what’s a manager supposed to say? That his team is punchless and might as well surrender? That having fallen 4 1/2 games behind Pittsburgh for the second wild card and three games behind Milwaukee, his team’s playoff chances are a hair above nil? That he and his men are already making plans to go fishing/hunting/golfing on the morning of Sept. 29?

We’ve known it for a while now, but we saw it again Monday: The Braves’ utter lack of offense has sucked all the air from a season that has yielded improbably splendid pitching. The rule of thumb is that if you can pitch, you can win. The Braves can really pitch but are a .500 team because their offense has descended to Little League level.

They wasted yet another quality start Monday. Ervin Santana worked six innings and was touched for three hits and two runs. The Braves have worked 104 quality starts, seven more than any other team in baseball and two more than they did all of last season, when they led the National League — and they’ve won 75 games. Roughly speaking, they’ve lost 29 games that should have been winnable for a team with even an average offense.

No, you’re not going to win every single well-pitched game. But say the Braves had gone 14-15 in those 29 games. Know where they’d be? Occupying first place in the National League East, three games ahead of Washington.

A season that started with two starting pitchers having been lost to Tommy John surgery was always going to have a limited ceiling, but the Braves have pitched so well even without Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy that they could have made a big run at a second consecutive division title and surely should have been leading the wild card chase. According to Baseball Prospectus, they now hold a 2.7 percent chance of advancing to October.

“Anything short of us getting in some sort of playoff or play-in game is not acceptable,” Gonzalez said, and he’s right. If the Braves don’t make it, changes will be made. (Even if they do, changes will be made.) The issue, as discussed in today’s AJC, is how sweeping those changes might be — and who’ll be charged with making them. Gonzalez and GM Frank Wren? One but not the other? Neither of the above?

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144 comments
thad#2
thad#2

BJ Upton wouldnt start on any other team in the majors but yet we start him every night.  BJ has got to go.


Rwhitt5
Rwhitt5

I've never seen a writer write 3 articles about the same thing and basically say nothing in all of them. Give us your opinion or write about something else.


St. Simons Daddy
St. Simons Daddy

This team frustrates more than any other Braves team I have ever watched.  There is no emotion or heart. They do not hustle.  Both Uptons lounge in the outfield. I see players jogging to first base instead of hustling.  Last week  Lastella hit a drive in the gap and watched it.  He wound up with a double instead of a tripple because he did not run hard.  Bench his butt is he does not hustle.   Its time to clean house.  Simmons, Kimbrel,  Bethancourt, Teahran and Hayward are untouchable.  Everyone else is up for trade. Frank Wren has destoyed this team with bonehead trades and fa signings.  Eat BJ's contract and let him go if you can not get anything for him it is better than him hurting the team.    You have heard of the Mendoza line?   BJ is creating the Upton line for 200 strikeouts a year.  His brother can hit but fields like a little leaguer.  Freddie is a great first baseman but Wren should have waited a year before sigining him to a long term contract..  Wren way overpaid for him. Chris Johnson should have been extended.  Look at his OBP and he either grounds into a double play or strikes out in the clutch.  Gattis is a liabliltiy behind the plate.  Trade him while you can to get something for him.   Look at what Jordan is doing with the Twins.  All he needed was a chance but our team in their infinite wisdom let him sit on the bench then releases him.  Doumit can not hit his weight.  No bench at all.  Terrible pench hitting.  The manager does not have a clue.  We as Braves fans and ticket holders need to boycott the team.  Do not go to the games or even watch them on tv.  Freddi and Wren both need to go.  We deserve better.  Get a manager that can light a fire and lets see some emotion.  If no one goes to the games and the tv ratings plunge then maybe Liberty can see the light and realize a change is needed.   Bring in John Hart or someone to be GM.  Get a manager that does not mind chewing a players butt from time to time or benching because of a lack of hustle.


DealMe
DealMe

clean house----dump McGuirk, schuerholz, Frank Wren, gonzalez, start over with new talent.

JacketDetective
JacketDetective

Fortunately my 20 game package was the Friday Fireworks where for some strange reason they play their best baseball followed by the fireworks. Aside from taking youngsters for the post game show, what reason is there to attend at this point?

Jazzpman
Jazzpman

Yes Changes need to be made..... Frank Wren has brought such an awful line up to the Braves and the bench players are a wonderment as well.


Where is the lead off hitter, with only a few days left in the season ?  BJ Upton is going to be a Brave for how long ?  The Braves will continue to pay Uggla next year ........ WOW !  More Frank Wren !

Other then Jason in right field this is easily the worst defensive out field I have seen in play by the Braves.


The hitting instructor must go as well.........along with the home run hitting contest at bats........ isn't there situations where situational hitting is required ?  


The Braves are dead men walking.....  The Fans who pay good money deserve better, and I for one will not pay to see the train wreck brought to Atlanta via Frank Wren !


Perhaps if Fans stay at home, then the management who OWNS the team understand top to bottom, this is in need of cleaning ! 

seminoleking
seminoleking

i NEVER hear anyone on these blogs give ervin santana his due. if it wasnt for santana, the braves would be a 60 win ballclub. he HAS to comeback, but the braves gonna let him go, watch and see. he is a SOLID number two guy, who occasionally has number one stuff. we all know the braves need hitting next year, but letting the only bright spot, the pitching staff, take a step back would be a bad move. tehran, santana, medlin, beachy and find somebody else. harang is worth keeping around also.

Savdon
Savdon

Back in May I sounded the "Warning! Warning! Danger! Danger!" alarm about 1 stat that would spell doom if it continued:  Runs scored.  At the time they were third from the bottom.  Today they are next to last.  Since then team ERA dropped from 2nd to 4th @ 3.35--plenty good enough for a a lot more wins than they have.  Therefore, it's obvious to the most casual observer what has to change:  ATL needs hitters.  Period.

As far as management goes, look for who left us with no hitters.  Therein lies the problem that needs to be corrected, in my humble opinion.

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

Frank Wren, the Uptons and Johnson need to go.

hardworkinman
hardworkinman

@JackClemens @Iluvnutella Because he's one of the few hitters that might land us something in return. He's a free agent after next season and chances are good he won't re-sign, especially if BJ's gone.

BaseballBuff
BaseballBuff

Fredi will be fired, either as a scapegoat by Wren or as part of a restructuring in which Wren and Gonzalez both go. One way or another, BJ is gone also, and thankfully so.

rgpat
rgpat

Braves fans should boycott and not go to games with the lack of effort and poor play until something changes. A great example is a center fielder who is batting .206 and making millions of dollars named BJ. He should be in the minors.

ToeMeetsLeather
ToeMeetsLeather

Wrenn seems to be a really nice guy, and has made some nice marginal moves, BUT. I said when Lowe's and Chipper's money was freed up, his legacy with the Braves would be determined by what he did with that windfall of funds. Well, both free agents that this money was used for have been, maybe, the two worst signings in the history of baseball. I don't see how he survives.

Falcons63
Falcons63

JMO, but your two most attractive assets for trade are Evan Gattis and Jason Heyward.  Gattis is the prototypical American League DH.  However, when I hear talk of trading him and starting Bethancourt I get nervous.  I hear "start Bethancourt and shut down the other teams running game".  But.. in reality how much of an impact does stolen bases have in modern baseball?  Bethancourt has made strides offensively, but he will never approach the offensive production of Gattis.  So.. this move doesnt' help an already offensively challenged team.  It would take a Kings ransom for me to give up a proven hitter like Gattis. 

  That brings us to Heyward.  He plays great defense in RF, a power position.  He struggles against lefty's and has regressed from his rookie years offensive numbers.  I'm beginning to doubt he will ever reach the superstar offensive numbers that were projected for him.  His trade value will never be higher than it is right now.  Another .270 season with 11-13 hr's will only make him less attractive.  You may trade him and he becomes a superstar for someone else.  That is the risk you take with trading a young player with the word "potential" attached to him.  However.. I think this has to be seriously considered.

    A ton of questions remain for the Braves.  I've never been a vocal "fire Gonzalez" guy, but the team has completely collapsed during the stretch run.  He has to take at least part of the blame.  People get on Wren for the Uggla deal.  Honestly, I didn't have a problem with that deal.  Uggla was coming off a huge season.  Who could have foreseen him pulling a Dale Murphy and completely losing his eye at the plate.  The Upton deal is another story.  I'm still trying to figure out what made Wren pull the trigger on that one.  That deal in itself is an move worth losing your job over. 

     So.. many questions for the Braves this offseason.. and I didn't even mention the questions on the pitching staff.  Do you re-sign Santanna?  What about Harang?  Doesn't appear to be much pitching help for the immediate future from the minor league system.  It will be an interesting offseason for the Braves.

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

@Falcons63  but, but, but Heyward is/was part of the BEST outfield in baseball...............roflmao.

RWill2073
RWill2073

How would fans feel if the Braves could make a trade with the Yankees to get Prado for a SP prospect plus Johnson if they'd want him, or some other piece (a trade with the Yankees would be doable if we gave them a pitching prospect, since they're hard up for pitching, and Johnson would offset losing Prado somewhat anyway) move Gattis to left full time, Bethancourt as the every day catcher, keep rotation in tact other than Santana, and go from there?  Here's what the lineup would look like:


3B Prado

RF J. Upton

1B Freeman

LF Gattis

RF Heyward

2B LaStella/Gosselin platoon

C Bethancourt

SS Simmons


BJ Upton could still play 3-4 days per week to justify his contract and keep him from being a complete waste and cancer by subbing for all three outfield spots, including extra days for Gattis, who could possibly catch or play first occasionally to give others a day off, even though that is putting a lot on him.  What's lost on defense in corner outfielders is offset by better defense at catcher and center field.  Maybe either Gosselin or LaStella could be included to the Yankees to get Prado, leaving the other as full time 2B, if necessary.  


Teheran

Minor

Wood

Harang

Beachy

Medlen

Hale


Would people get excited for that?  I think I would be.

RTS123
RTS123

If there was ever a time if you could forfiet the rest of a season this would be it. I would be ashamed to call myself a professional baseball player if I was a position player on the Braves. They are pathetic. ALL of them. No heart, hustle, pride, etc.....

WaltBBall
WaltBBall

Freddi Gonzalez needs to go and bad deal Frank Wren also, the Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton deals was a disaster.   Jason Heyward is a bust like Jeff Francour and Cris Johnson needs to be dumped.  Evan Gattis needs to play winter ball and make LF field his permanent position.  B.J. Has to go, the club needs a breath of fresh air he stanks up the place as bad as Uggla did.

RTS123
RTS123

Amen to all of that

Biff_Pocoroba
Biff_Pocoroba

I'm surprised the AJC hasn't publicly endorsed Wren.

Birdhair
Birdhair

@Biff_Pocoroba  They have. See Bradley's articles. Schultz is wishy washy. Schultz hammered Wren for a while but I bet he chickens out and goes the easy route and calls for FG's head only.

Wilbo
Wilbo

The Braves rhyme with duck.


JoeyMele
JoeyMele

We have BJ Upton, we are the real winners in MLB. We need a team full of BJ Uptons so Kasim Reed is proud of us. Wins and losses are irrelevant when you can pencil in BJ Upton every 3rd day. We can't play him every game because of how awesome he is. 

alpha001
alpha001

@JoeyMele  Just stop. We all know what you're trying to say about Reed and Upton.  No need for that here.

Delbert_D
Delbert_D

Dere is dis guy down in Miami dat can handle a contract on a coupla dese sad sack guys. Just need ta make da call.

Chuck_UGA
Chuck_UGA

Gonzalez and Wren absolutely should be fired. Should have been fired last year. It is time to start fresh with an aggressive new manager (unlike the passive Cox and Gonzalez) and a much smarter GM. Of course, the Braves will do absolutely nothing. And ticket sales will remain in the cellar next season because most of the fan base is equally apathetic.

chupika130
chupika130

Please please please make the new ballpark hitter friendly.  Turner Field is New Shea Stadium south.  

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@chupika130 

Ahhh...if that was the Braves most urgent or sole problem.  But, alas, that will have to get in line for the dozens of other "minor" (pun intended) problems

AtlantaWolf
AtlantaWolf

Changes for the Braves next year? Not many, They need a new GM, lead off hitter, a third baseman, a center fielder that can hit and a catcher who can throw someone out. They also need a clutch hitter somewhere in the 4,5,6 spots and try to cut down on strike outs by around 25% for the season. 


Other than that, they really don't need much else.

Techmate
Techmate

It's time BJ Upton did the honorable thing and retired. He has not fulfilled his his contract or his potential. He needs to do the right thing for himself and for the fans and for the Braves and, either take a huge pay cut or retire. There are absolutely no excuses. That would be the respectable and right thing to do.

Williethepimp
Williethepimp

@Techmate That's funny as hell. Yeah, Big Joke is going to do the "honorable thing" and walk away from 45 million. He will wait for his release and still get his money ala Fuggla. DUH.

LADawg
LADawg

@Techmate There is no longer any honor in professional sports if there ever was. 


Might as well learn to live with BJ, he's ours for at least two more years. He's the worst player in all of baseball. There is no team in the majors, Japan, minors, anywhere, that can upgrade their roster by adding BJ. That is not a disgruntled fan speaking, that's a statistical fact!

LADawg
LADawg

Down by two, two outs, two runners in scoring position; BJ at the plate. He happens to make contact with the ball and hits it to short. The ball caroms of the shortstop's chest and rolls away. The shortstop retrieves the ball, scratches himself and spits. Then, he throws the ball to first and BJ is out and it's not even close. "You really have to like the effort." Really?!

ComaToes
ComaToes

@LADawg You forgot to add one thing:  The SS realized he had the wrong glove, ran into the dugout and got it, then upon assuming his position threw the ball to first.  While all this was going on, BJ was standing in the batter's box counting all his money. That's why he was out !

LADawg
LADawg

@ComaToes @LADawg Gotta feeling that BJ's money is going up his nose accounting for the bloodshot eyes, mysterious routes to the ball in the OF, and making contact with the ball so seldom that even when he puts it in play it surprises even himself.

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@LADawg 

You could write a book about BoJangles' fielding abilities ... well, maybe "fielding abilities is too much of a stretch.

Gman84
Gman84

Seems like for the last  4 years, the Braves completely run out of gas in September -even when they reach the playoffs, they hit the finish line with 4 flat tires and an empty tank of gas.

The team is indifferently owned for "tax reasons" and my only requiement anymore is that they provide minimal spring/summer entertainment and drop me off 2 blocks from football season.

Once football starts, I can barely watch an inning....just can't stand it....and I've followed them since the mid 70s

If they dont care, I don't care

Furman Bitcher
Furman Bitcher

Fire GM & trade both Uptons in off season. Re-sign Santana to 4 yr deal and trade Minor & Johnson. Add 3rd baseman in FA plus another hitting outfielder. Only untouchables are Freeman, Kimbrel, Simmons, Tehran and Wood. Everyone else is on the table. 

alpha001
alpha001

@Furman Bitcher  Who the heck is going to want Johnson and his contract? The Braves would have to eat it just like Upton's and Uggla's.

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

I'll bet they don't win any more than 3 more games. They will finish behind the Fish and the Muts. Can't wait to see the crowd tonight. Back to the 80's baby!! 

ComaToes
ComaToes

@Mr. Negative I predicted before the month started they would finish 12-13 for Sept.  Boy am I an "optimistic nutcase" ?  They would have to go 9-3 now the rest of the month for that to happen. 

Sad thing is the same will happen next year unless major changes are made player-wide and management-wide. 

Jack_®
Jack_®

The whole  team is unhappy. Freeman used joke and laugh all the time; now nobody jokes and laughs. There's a cancer in the dressing room and he needs to go.

Williethepimp
Williethepimp

@Jack_Republican  Oh no, you're not referring to that nonchalant BUM who failed to hustle down the line last night which ended the game, are you? Say it ain't so. Yes indeed, CANCER.