The gap between the Nationals and the Braves just got wider

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The Nationals celebrate the 2014 NL East title — at Turner Field. (David Tulis/AP photo)

Two years ago, the Atlanta Braves finished 10 games ahead of the Washington Nationals. (Since this happened on Frank Wren’s watch, the new Braves’ front office will say it didn’t really count.) At the All-Star break last season, the teams were tied. The Nats would lap the Braves over the second half, finishing 17 games in front. That could be the closest the Braves come to first place in the National League East in a while.

The team that, according to Buster Olney of ESPN Insider, already had the best rotation in the majors has just landed Max Scherzer, the best pitcher on the market. (Barry Svrluga and Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post broke the story.) The Nats now have six good-to-excellent starting pitchers: Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez.

There’s widespread belief that Zimmermann will be traded to make financial space for Scherzer, who’s signing for more than $160 million over seven seasons, but still. It wasn’t so long ago that the Braves owned the Nats, but last season’s September flop begat a winter sell-off, and here’s a scorecard on what the teams have done with their offseasons: The Nats have landed a Cy Young winner; the Braves have traded Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis.

The cynics in baseball — it won’t surprise anyone to know that there are many — will see Scherzer-to-Washington and say, “Of course! He’s a Scott Boras client! And Scott Boras runs the Nats!” That has been the rap for a while now, and Boras does represent Strasburg, Gonzalez, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa. (Counting Scherzer, that’s almost one-third of the 25-man roster.)

The Nats are loading up to win a World Series, which they haven’t yet done. The Braves are trying to look presentable by 2017, when they move to Cobb County. These teams are no longer peers. One’s a have; the other’s a hope-to-have.

Reader Comments 1

62 comments
Wilbo
Wilbo

Silly to compare Nats and Braves. Nats are an organization trying to correct a few lacks and become a championship club. Braves are a lost buncho bottom feeders too stupid to clean house and move on from being professional sports worst ever waste of opportunity and most comic postseason losers.

mwhite2k
mwhite2k

It's so tiring watching Bradley defend his pal Frank while bashing the Braves in every single article. Mark, I hope they find a cure for your writer's block soon...best wishes.

ShovelPlease
ShovelPlease

Forget comparing the Braves to the Nationals.  How much distance is there between the Braves and the Mets/Phillies/Marlins?  I'd say quite a lot, and not in the good direction. 

GT71
GT71

!st let me say to the AJC:

WHEN I CLICK ON SPORTS I WANT SPORTS, NOT THE FRONT PAGE - FIX THE GD THING!

Re Nats;  Better management at all levels creates, over time, a better team on the field.


Wilbo
Wilbo

@GT71 You don't really think the incompetent clowns who run this paper could actually do what's necessary to set up a well functioning website, do you? If they had even a modicum of good sense, would they have this dimwit writing for them? Get real!

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Hey Braves, see you in 2017, if this all works out.  If I want to watch minor leaguers, I don't have to go all the way downtown.

Beavercreekbravesfan
Beavercreekbravesfan

Folty, Thurman and Rios for Gattis was a great trade. Who needs a left fielder anyway. BJ gets paid enough to cover center and left. Seriously, this was Hart's second best move. The minor league swap for Sanchez was the best move. A low risk high prospect. Braves will still suck for the next 4-5 years. Forget 2017. The rest of the league isn't standing still waiting for the Braves to improve. The only thing that changes in 2017 is the location of the empty stadium.

Dr Phill
Dr Phill

Nobody will be able to get to the ballpark in 2017 unless they own a helicopter or move into the Las Vegas like hotel and resort. I'll stick with the local Class A team and $5.00 tickets.

DawgnIT
DawgnIT

I don't think anyone cares until 2017.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Yep, Braves falling behind once again.  Cubs get Dexter Fowler, who hits .393 when leading off an inning, but we didn't need him, because we have an excellent CF in BJ.  Hardee har har.


ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

Loading up for the three peat...Oh, wait, haven't won the first two...Didn't the Nats pay any attention to the Philly's model?


Money won't be a problem but trading partners will be.

smeezie
smeezie

To think we're suppose to hang with the better teams next season or even the season after is a waste of time. This is all about taking a step back, getting the books in better shape after some awful contracts and then fielding a competitive team when it moves to Cobb. Let the Nats waste their money now. They're built to win now and in a few years they'll be on the decline as we're making our move to the top again.


I for one am a believer that these offseason moves were needed and that our fall is systematically and temporary. The worse thing would be to keep overpaying trying to build a team that isn't a legit contender and then we're just spinning our wheels or setting ourselves up for a deeper/longer lasting fall to the bottom like the 80s all over again.

CowbellHell
CowbellHell

@smeezie Wow @smeezie... one rational post amongst a sea of haters that WONT be watching next year.  I agree, this overhaul/rebuild was sorely needed and should have been done a few years ago.  It makes perfect sense to rebuild the next two years to bring a solid club built from the ground up into the new building.


I've been to the minor league games and you haters AINT going to em...so dont cry about it, just don't watch..don't post and keep your miserable nature to your self.

HUDDYS1FAN
HUDDYS1FAN

To start with first: The Nationals have real ownership. Second, his name is Ted Lerner and the man is 89 years old. Third, he want's a WS ring and trophy before the grim reaper comes calling.


That said, the Nats will regret this massive contract down the road. However they are all in for 2015. Lock, stock and baseball barrels aimed for the post season.


As for our Braves.......bottom feeders is what they have become. Bad management (Wren) and over spending (Wren) has decimated the minor league system and prevented this organization from competing. John Hart has to right the ship and it can't be done in one year or even two. Might be 2017 before we see a truly competitive team again.

Maggot_Man
Maggot_Man

@HUDDYS1FAN JS was hiding in his office the whole time. Real leadership does not allow 1 person to change an organization's course so dramatically.........JS was there with Coppy [yes, I hate the cute nicknames, but it's easier to use it so I don't have to figure out the correct spelling] and Bobby and McQuirk in the poorly-lit backrooms with cigars and whiskey. Yes, they all had a hand in this and are counting on simple-minded idiots to blame it all on Wren.




kenstallings
kenstallings

It's called paying the price to win the big trophy.  This is what the Braves with Ted Turner as owner did for many years before it finally paid off.  But, had the Braves lacked the desire to spend for free agents like Greg Maddux and trade for stars like Fred McGriff, that championship in 1995 would have never happened.


There is no guarantee that spending for the best talent available will bring a championship.  It could fail miserably.  But, as certain as that uncertainty is, there is one thing more certain.  A team that refuses to pay that price will not win a championship.


Given this, it is far better to try and lose than to never try at all.


That said, rebuilding with a plan can lead to spending that price to get the remaining pieces.  The Braves suffered from a Frank Wren offensive model of power over contact because Wren failed to read the memo that the steroid era was forever over!  John Hart has read that memo.  So, tearing down the offense was required no matter by what method.  


2015 will be a lean year for Braves Country.  No surprise there.  Let's hope that Liberty will be wiling to open up the checkbook when the time comes.

Maggot_Man
Maggot_Man

@kenstallings The league is littered with teams who go all in the the Nats are doing this year. We'll see.

say what
say what

Oh ye of little faith....just remember ALL the great players were once  just rookies trying to make to the BIG SHOW. g

pride
pride

The Braves are loading up on young arms to go along with young strength across all infield positions.  They recognize weakness in two outfield positions which can both be solved through free agents and trades. I for one am excited by what I see happening.  I'll miss Gattis but he is not an outfielder and is injury prone.  He can be replaced as he was no Roberto Clemente.  I would rather cheer for the young team being built than for the over-priced under achievers we had accumulated.  We have money to spend and a barrel full of young players to grow up with.  I'm on the bandwagon.

AlaskaBravesFan
AlaskaBravesFan

A good baseball team has to start with pitching, but no team can pay 25 - 30 million per head, per year, even if it's just for pitchers.  (Just think:  25 players times $25,000,000 = $625,000,000.  I suppose the future will bring the "One Billion Dollar Baseball Team," but I certainly hope not.  Thus, back to the "grow your own" approach, which is what the Braves are working on right now.  Over the last few years the team got away from that philosophy, and it has hurt.  We ended up with players who had to hit an unrealistically high number of dingers for the team to win.  Now we're headed back toward a team of players who can make contact and get on base.  Along with a very good pitching staff, which we almost have in place now, this will produce wins.  If money were the only determinant of whether a team would win the Series, all we would have to do is check out each team's salaries, and then we could dispense with playing the games.


ABF

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

The Nationals need a top line closer to lock up the pennant, just the piece the Braves have. If all the doom and gloom Braves fans are correct Kimbrel will be under utilized and a unnecessary luxury for a non contender so why not make a deal. Kimbrel for either a package that includes Nats 5th starter Tanner Rourke or prospects including Nats #1 prospect Lucas Giolito. Trading within your on division is frowned on but why not take advantage of the Nats win it all Now attitude.Heck if Hart is smart he may try to unload BJ Upton in the same deal.

hardworkinman
hardworkinman

If spending millions buys championships, then where were the Yankees and Red Sox at the end of last season? If memory serves me correctly, one of the smallest market teams (Royals) played for the title and they did it with pitching. That's the path the Braves are going down and I'm glad to see it.

Hammerman
Hammerman

2017 only matters if they can start signing the 25 to 30 mil free agents that year.This is one hot unwatchable mess for many years to come.Maybe 2027 they can be relevant again.

Hammerman
Hammerman

Seeing how they couldn't afford Aoki at 4 mil,you have nothing to worry about.

Bogey
Bogey

@Hammerman  I recommend you buy the Washington Nationals TV package....


Hart needed a couple top pitching prospects....he went out and got 8 or so quickly.  Expect a few to develop and be keepers.  Expect Hart to package a couple up for that power hitting LF you are looking for.


Everybody relax....this is Phase 1 of a process, but it won't take nearly as long as you so negatively speculate.

Hammerman
Hammerman

I'm not stressing,I've watched this team for 45 years.But even without Scherzer the Nats outclass the Braves top to bottom,not to mention the upstart Marlins and Mets.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Hammerman

Hope the Braves do not go the way of $25 to $30 million a year free agents,their recent history with $13 to $15 million a year free agents should not be warning enough not to go this route.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Hammerman

Not worried about not signing Aoki ,there will be better outfielders available after roster cuts are made after spring training. And these players will cost less than $4 million .

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Hart is vying for the Baseball America Organization of the Year and Executive of the Year awards, in 2017. In the meantime we can check out the fruits of his labor in Gwinnett and Mississippi.


I don't have any problem with the Upton or Heyward trades, maybe quibbles with the return. The Gattis trade on the surface appears horrible.


As we saw two seasons ago you should not worry about what the other team is doing and concern yourself instead with assembling a competitive team. There are no guarantees in baseball - all those Nats pitchers could be on the operating table by July. My concern is the Braves won't be competitive.

Bogey
Bogey

@DawgDadII  You may be right that the Braves won't be competitive short-term, but I think they will be by the time the new stadium opens.  And I respectfully disagree with you on the Gattis trade - I think Hart got great potential (which is what they are after at this point) for a player with little upside and only for an AL team.  We all like Gattis a lot, but IF he develops as expected Foltynewicz will be more valuable than Evan could ever be for us.


Everything is sports is IF, but if and when the Braves get really good again, Hart will be retired and playing golf.  I just hope Braves fans, and guys like Bradley and Schultz, will give credit for the architect of that future success.

PalmBeachFalcon
PalmBeachFalcon

@DawgDadII  I think the Gattis trade was the best of the three.  We weren't going to win with Gattis and his body can't handle playing more than 120 games in the field. 

patriotdog
patriotdog

Plenty of hometown $$$ that could buy the Braves and provide much needed cash to compete, and I really like Hart's moves so far.

Bradley, call Dan Cathey, Ann Cox Chambers, any of the Atlanta based entertainment moguls and ask them if they would be interested. Then call me and I'll put the deal together for, say, 5%. I'll give you half.

KBP
KBP

@Bogey ,


Very good analysis but what frightens me is the Nats may be on the verge of their 14 year run, SMH!  I hope I am dead wrong! 

Curious_George
Curious_George

This Scherzer signing isn't going to help BJ Upton's chances for 2015 NL Comeback Player of the Year, is it?

 

ldw99
ldw99

The Nats may have Scherzer but the carpetbager from cleveland went out and got the braves at least 10-15 Tommy John minor league pitchers. They may beat us in quality but hart definitely outsmarted the Nats in quantity (and all it cost was all our offense!)

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@ldw99

What offense? The one that finished next to last in runs scored in 2014.And if my memory is correct at least three of the Nationals super star pitchers have already under gone Tommy John surgery.

DawgWhistle
DawgWhistle

Sounds like the Nats are doing it 'The Washington Way'...Boros is the consumate lobbiest and the Nats are coming up with money from a bottomless pit. I wouldn't be surprised if they're dipping into the Social Security Trust (like everybody else).

Bogey
Bogey

Alaska - finally a reasonable blog entry!


Other than the big money teams who habitually spend themselves to a competitive state (and that doesn't always work out too well), most teams have to build from within, and that's exactly what Hart is doing.


Lots of negative blogs lately screaming for Hart to be fired - they don't get it at all. Since '91, the Braves have NEVER rebuilt - what they've done is fill gaps, plug leaks, use duct tape & baling wire and shopped in the bargain aisle.  We've seen the result:  a fairly competitive/relevant team with no chance at playoff success.


The primary reason I think it took Hart so long to finally accept the job was it took that long for him to convince Schuerholz and McGuirk that a rebuild was required.  You can argue some specifics of each individual move, but overall Hart is winning this offseason - it just won't show on the field for a couple years at least.


Tommy LaStella:  a backup 2nd baseman traded for a big BP arm AND more importantly $830K in int'l signing money, which lead to EIGHT top (hopefully) prospects.


JHey:  an underperforming offensive RF and a good pen arm in Walden (although hurt half the time) for an immediate mid-rotation starter in Miller and a future starter in Jenkins.  We weren't going to resign Heyward anyway - this trade was a huge win for us.


JUp:  4 prospects.  Fried and Mallex Smith will be the payback for this trade, but it will take 2-3 yrs to show up.  The reason we didn't get more for JUp was his FA status at years end plus the winter meetings were a literal orgy of deals that left Hart with little leverage for a rental player.  IF the above 2 players develop, this will be seen as a long-term win (think Doyle Alexander for Smoltz).


Gattis:  this trade was a steal - Hart sent away a 28 yr old oft-injured slugger with no position to play effectively for 3 prospects, 2 of which may be starters by next year.


There are many other moves, too many to mention, which we'll be able to judge down the road.  The Braves will stink this year, and may not be much better in '16, but long term.......should be exciting.


Last point:  all teams seem to have about a 5 - 6 year run to win it all (the Braves miraculously had 14) - Phillies had their time, and it's over, same thing with the A's, the Rangers, the Angels, etc.  The Nats are 2-3 years into their run - they better win now, because the Braves, the Marlins and the Mets are coming.

BSNBC
BSNBC

@Bogey  The Braves fans will not wait 2 or 3 years for a better team. They will not come to the games!

patriotdog
patriotdog

Alaska, Bogey,

Excellent posts. The experts howled when a GM named Bobby Cox traded the only decent pitcher on a

hopeless team, Doyle Alexander, to Detroit for a kid named Smoltz. I remember the trade. I was one of the ones scratching my head, thinking the team was run by imbeciles......turned out they knew what they were doing.

Brave44
Brave44

@BSNBC @Bogey Most definitely correct.....used to go to Mets games pre-'69, 2-3k attendance at $3.50 a seat. As a 58 year Brave fan, all I can say is.... GO HAWKS!!!!!! 

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Brave44 @BSNBC @Bogey If I remember the Braves fans did not exactly support the Braves during the latter part of their divisional winning streak. Empty seats for playoff games and declining yearly attendance from 2000 to 2004.I remember the Braves of the 70's and 80's when the only crowds in Fulton Co. Stadium came to see the Cubs and Mets play the woeful Braves teams. If the 2015 Braves get production from their starting pitching I think they should win more than the 79 wins the '14 Braves won. By the time the roster is finished by the end of spring training the outlook will not be as DIRE as it is in mid January.

HarMul
HarMul

@BSNBC @Bogey If they don't go to watch the Braves game, then so be it. But true fans know that there is a rebuild happening and the club finally has some direction. There is a reason why ATL is ranked among the worst sports cities in the country. It is because not all our fans wear our teams on their sleeves.

CobbManAssRapedbyBraves
CobbManAssRapedbyBraves

Gee, after this Nationals signing of Scherzer for $210 million, don't be surprised to see an announcement of the construction costs of the Braves' new SchemeTrust Park to unexpectedly rise by $210 million within the next 12 months.



#OurCobbTaxDollarsatWork

FarTrain
FarTrain

The Braves owners and management thought being 3,000 down in home attendance last year was bad, just wait until they see this year !  It may go negative !

HarMul
HarMul

@FarTrain Similar to the number of brain cells left in your head.

AlaskaBravesFan
AlaskaBravesFan

After seeing quite a number of huge, long-term contracts become albatrosses, you'd think teams would avoid them, but no.  It is not a disappointment to me that it isn't the Braves who committed to such an unrealistic contract.  What the team has been doing this winter was necessary, and they are headed in the right direction.  We actually play the games, instead of just comparing contracts, for a reason.  Since every team tries pretty hard to win, no team is guaranteed a World Series.  I just love the game, and big money doesn't help it; it hurts.


Go Braves!


ABF

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