The Braves aren’t trying to lose, which is both good and bad

Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez (33) argues from the dugout during a baseball game Toronto Blue Jays Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez (33) argues from the dugout during a baseball game Toronto Blue Jays Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Beats me, says Fredi G. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

When you lose 19 of 20 games; when you lose 12 in a row at home; when you go six calendar weeks between victories over a plus-.500 team; when you go 15-47 since July 7 … when you do all of that — and the Atlanta Braves have done all of that — it’s natural for folks to wonder if you’re actually trying to win. Sure enough, folks are wondering.

R.J. Anderson raised the question on Baseball Prospectus. On Grantland, Ben Lindbergh assessed the state of the race to the bottom of the National League East and wondered if there was a sure-thing No. 1 prospect — a Bryce Harper, say — who’d be worth his weight in tanking. (Apparently there isn’t.) On Baseball Prospectus’ Effectively Wild podcast, Lindbergh and BP editor Sam Miller discussed the Braves at length and wondered, you know, if they’re actually trying to win. (The podcast’s title gives away the ending: “Why Don’t Bad Teams Tank in September?“)

I’ll concede that, if the Braves were trying their hardest to lose, the results couldn’t be much different than they’ve been. Over the season’s first 84 games, the Braves played .500 ball, meaning they won one of every two games. Over the past 62 games, they’ve played .242 ball, meaning they’ve won one of every four. As noted in this space, they could become the first team in baseball history to lose 100 games after being .500 so deep into a season. (They’ll need to go 5-11 over the final 2 1/2 weeks to do the deed.)

That said, I’ve seen little to indicate that the Braves are indeed losing games on purpose. They’ve haven’t shut down Shelby Miller or Julio Teheran. They’ve haven’t benched Freddie Freeman or Nick Markakis. And here, at least to me, is the capper: The average age of the Braves’ starting eight position players in Tuesday’s game against Toronto was … 30 years and one month. (And they did, wonder of wonders, win that night.)

If you find that heartening — our heroic Braves aren’t tanking after all! — maybe you shouldn’t. That a team this bad is trotting out five position players over 30 in a September game tells us that this organization isn’t a-swim in close-to-major-league-ready non-pitching prospects. (We note that the great hitting hope Hector Olivera will turn 31 next year.) That’s scary. And if you’re trying to win and still losing, that tells us only one thing: You’re terrible.

Terrible teams don’t get better overnight. Maybe by 2017 the young pitching will have kicked in and the Braves will have landed Yoenis Cespedes as a free agent and Olivera will have turned into George Brett if not Mike Schmidt. But guys like A.J. Pierzynski and Nick Swisher surely don’t have much left, and on this woebegone team they’re among the brighter lights.

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93 comments
Lovebaseball
Lovebaseball

Hart ought to resign, as Freddie G. should certainly go. The Braves are Horrible!. It's going to be years before they become competitive again. The fans won't put up with it. They demand and deserve better. The Braves ought to clean house. If they don't chart a new path for success with new leaders, there are not going to be any fans going to the games next year and certainly not in the New Sun Trust Stadium. It is going to be hard to accept a very bad team with a new stadium they don't even need. I will bet you those ticket prices will go up in the new stadium. Things have got to change, or it will be a disaster in Atlanta. The Only THING going is that the Atlanta fans can always enjoy seeing the other team when it comes to Atlanta.

scottylovesthetitans
scottylovesthetitans

The Braves are so pitiful and so old, they are at least five years away from even being competitive, much less contenders.


BravesFanForever
BravesFanForever

Actually that's not true. Bad teams DO win overnight. We have seen it time and time again. the '91 Braves and Twins? They were both cellar dwellers the year prior. All it will take for this team is for the starting staff to mature and learn to pitch in the majors, the relief corps to come together (may take a trade or two - but no big deal here since relievers are a dime a dozen), and a couple of position players may need to be replaced and/or improve dramatically. Nick Swisher belongs on the bench, clearly Olivera needs to start hitting (20+ HRs would be nice), Jace Peterson needs to hit better than .230, and the Braves need more power from Markakis. Either trade for or sign a new leftfielder and bring up Mallex Smith to either start in CF or be a fourth outfielder. This team needs WAAAY more speed. For a team to play the small ball you need to have speed or it doesn't work.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Fact check: .242 is NOT winning 1 in 4, it is worse than that. I would not accuse the Braves PLAYERS of trying to lose, but I would definitely accuse management of tanking the team - intentionally.


Compare the ages of the primary players on last year's team to this year. Hart has turned a very young team with some talent into an older team comprised almost exclusively of AAA players, bench players, and misfits. Sure some of them play hard - while losing - they're fighting to stay in the league.


Hart's handling of the catching provides a clear example of the directionless circus that is REALLY unfolding before our eyes. He misread Bethancourt badly (who out there thought Bethancourt would pan out?), traded Gattis (young catcher who could hit), and did NOT trade the 38-year old Pierzynski at the trade deadline. That is 0-for-3 (does the Lavarnway kid have any significant value?).


I've been around a long time and have seen many, many organizations whiff on rebuilding, some many times over. In my book what the Braves management did this year is an unconscionable snub at their fans.

BravesFanForever
BravesFanForever

@DawgDadII ummm .250 is 1 in 4. that's only .008 difference or 1 win over 162 games. I think it's close enough. ;-)

 They didn't tank the team dude. Come on. They had to make some trades and trades only happen with ASSETS. You can't trade no talent players with HUGE contracts like Melvin Upton without packing him with other attractive assets. 


I think you are going way overboard. I think Hart has done a remarkable job. Right now they are in a holding pattern because most of the minor league players are just not ready. They need to find their way to the majors using the typical and normal growth patterns. Can't just bring up anyone. They have to be READY. 


You know as well as I do and every scout and writer that Gattis was not good defensively. He didn't have a future with the Braves because he didn't have a position! He was a great asset to trade to an American league club and guess what transpired? 


Anyway I'm certain we will disagree but I'm with most Braves fans congratulating Hart & Co for doing a great job.. 


SunDropMan
SunDropMan

One can't help but feel sorry,  or maybe even disgusted with,  those poor naive folks who are still going to the Braves games, spending their hard-earned money to see a team that will go down in the history of the MLB as one of the worst ever.  Even 100 losses is within easy reach.  So sad, not to have anything more interesting or important to do than to go to a Braves game that is already way over-priced.  As a friend use to say "you might as well wrap a $100 bill around an M80 firecracker and light it. You will get a bigger bang out of it".

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@HopelessinAtlanta 


I used to care but I cannot as long as this GM and ownership is around


I despise the Hart plan -- its a joke


The Olivera deal finished me on having any hope for a long time

Dominic Karr
Dominic Karr

Who would have rather seen a team (whether it be with the Uptons, Kimbrel, Heyward, and CJ or not) make the playoffs and lose in the first round again than watch a minor league team embarrass themselves and their city for entire year? I sure would have. 


Say what you want about Wren, but he put a competitive team on the field. His planning was poor, some signings horrendous, but Turner Field had average to high attendance and us fans had a favorite player to look forward to watching every night. Now they're all gone (with the exception of Freddie and maybe Simba) and we have nothing to show for it but an excess of losses and prospects that may or may not pan out...


And another thing! How bad really was that contract to CJ? (Who's batting .365 since he got to Cleveland by the way) Chris Johnson was an above average hitter that was completely disrespected and underused by Fredi Gonzalez until he had absolutely no ambition or incentive to produce on the field. His poor playing was our manager's doing, not his or our GM's.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@Dominic Karr 


Agree -- I think Hart has set this team back years and the prospects he got are basically back end of the rotation guys and maybe bullpen guys


The pen has been a joke -- its all about money for this corporation who owns this now


I am not mad anymore cause I do not expect anything now

Big Wally
Big Wally

@Dominic Karr Silly.  Chris Johnson did not fit in here at Atlanta,  He actually got mad when he messed up.  The Braves prefer players who are stoic, and laid back, don't really care if they mess up.  LOL.

Dominic Karr
Dominic Karr

@reckingball @VeryDisgusted  Chris Johnson did not have the best attitude here, that is true. His apathy on the field and outspoken desire to leave Atlanta was unprofessional and unfair to his teammates and fans. But I stand by my opinion that his decline in hustle and performance was significantly due to Fredi Gonzalez's mismanagement.

reckingball
reckingball

Of course, they are not trying to lose.

Gov-waste
Gov-waste

There will be a movie made of the Braves at the end of the season named Clueless in ATL starring Mr Hart and Freddie. Auditions are not necessary this photo will do as the the lead character..

fez
fez

@youlibtards Why would Freddie be in it?  He's a very serviceable first baseman.

GaLatino
GaLatino

I used to defend the Braves to no end through the early 2000's and all those playoff losses. I even rooted for Dan Uggla at one point, but I've come to one conclusion.  I'm a fairweather fan.  There, I said it.  I have no stomach for watching a losing team with no hope of getting better.  I simply have better ways to pass my time.  I haven't watched more than 9 innings TOTAL of baseball this year, because I knew going in that the Braves weren't going to be any good, but I never expected them to be this bad.


Losing like this has lasting effects on an organization.  Whatever young talent we do possess is being completely devoured by the losing mentality and overall lack of leadership on this team.  I know we lack talent, but it really is hard to be THIS bad at baseball, so something is clearly wrong.  Fredi is a joke, a fraud, a horrible manager, and I'm ashamed that I originally endorsed his hire.


I know some of the moves that John Hart made simply HAD to be made, but there is not a single, bona fide top of the rotation starter among any of the prospects he traded for, and the closest thing we have, Shelby Miller, is unlikely to psychologically rebound from his "historic" season.


On top of this, we know with absolute certainty that the "ownership" of the Braves will not spend the money necessary to make us good by 2017.  Not a chance.  Frankly, I don't see the Braves being a better than .500 team until 2018 at the earliest, and I don't see them truly contending for a division or wild card until 2019 or later.


Good luck Cobb.  You and this team deserve each other.

robo71
robo71

Why not make Fredi G the GM, he can't do any worse in that position than he has in his current position. Is there a chance we can swap rosters with Gwinnett? At least things would be interesting to watch!

Big Wally
Big Wally

Need a John Schuerholtz bobble head night.  Though it would be hard to tell the difference from the doll vs the real thing.

Blitz12003
Blitz12003

Not trying to lose? Well they seem to be very good at it. Imagine what they could accomplish if they actually put their mind to it! 

120 losses next year may not be out of the question! 

#driveto100. 


TreeRollins
TreeRollins

What's left to say about these losers - there is not a capable batter in site!!

CallMeStupid
CallMeStupid

What the Braves need to salvage this season is a pedestrian bridge over I-285.             It shall be named  : The Pascual Pérez Memorial Overpass.

CallMeStupid
CallMeStupid

We sign Julio Jones to a multi-million dollar contract and we have nothing to show for it!

SunDropMan
SunDropMan

Sure wish Vegas was taking bets on which one, Atlanta or Philly, would finish with 100 losses.  My money would be on the Braves. If they go 5-15 the rest of the way, whoopee!, they have attained the goal set up at the start of the season by the genius manager, Fredi G.  They are the very definition of the word ineptness!  Loosersville should be proud of them. Who's going to be more miserable next year in the old ballpark, the Braves are the 10 fans who actually show up?

Fun and Gun
Fun and Gun

Since 2nd half of the season synopsis 


The Good- Losing so often we're a shoe in for at least a top 3 pick or better. Daniel Castro, Danny Burawa and Adonis Garcia have been my personal favorite players to watch along with AJ

The Bad-Pitching staff still needs to grow. However we're losing at so often I worry if they even know how to win. The jury is still out on Oliveira but at times he reminds me of a cross between Andres Thomas and Julio Franco the bad version.

The Ugly- Waiting for run support and a superstar.

Harts_Junk
Harts_Junk

Well the players themselves are obviously not trying to lose.... most of them -- like poor Miller Time -- just get caught up  / contaminated by and in the "losing mentality"... hanging like a thick LA morning 'Smog' over the entire Atlanta Braves organization!

Kwajbraves
Kwajbraves

They got 2 hits tonight and 1 one them by Wisler.  No, they are just not trying to be bad, they just are.

Harts_Junk
Harts_Junk

@Kwajbraves Si and having Wisler start.... again!, is almost tantamount to 'forfeiting' the game! :):) This overhyped priced trade-piece (read: DUD!!!) Wisler has some of very very worst advanced pitching numbers in the entire MLB and  with anyone with at least the same amount of innings and/or starts, like his soon to be close to .400 opponents OBP and already +.900 OPS!

Another Evaluating of Talent and basically GM job very well done Mr. Hart :):) lol

Harts_Junk
Harts_Junk

@Kwajbraves @Harts_Junk Rofl Coppy probably just had a little too much of that delightful "Hart's Kool-Aid" :):) Now ON SALES all across Georgia: Get 100 gallons for the price of 1!!! lol

Kwajbraves
Kwajbraves

@Harts_Junk @Kwajbraves 


What I find amusing and disturbing is that Coppy said that this team is going to be playing meaningful games in September next year.

buellerbuellerbueller
buellerbuellerbueller

So, what is the point of this article exactly?   Or was it just an "off day" for Bradley?

Harts_Junk
Harts_Junk

If you can't see Mr. Bradley that the unscrupulous and crony-infested Braves Front Office spearheaded by all mighty President of Baseball Operations John "I've got a superior eye for pitching" Hart is DESPERATELY trying to lose, especially since early July  .... the more the merrier ... and Freewheeling Fredi G was inexplicably extended through 2016 simply only because his easily documentable managerial INEPTITUDE and utter lack of leadership suddenly has become very handy in an All-In "Losing Effort" (to grasp the mouthwatering  No. 1 draft-pick).... Well then I'm afraid -- and no real offense intended -- you simply must have your head buried somewhere like here:


http://ywamfrontiers.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/HeadInTheSand-720x300.jpg


:):) LOL

HANK55
HANK55

SURE THEY ARE....SOMEBODY IS BETTING ON THE GAMES. THEY BETTER WIN SOME MONEY.

John Ellis
John Ellis

Yea they kinda are tanking it. What do you think he traded away? A 500 ballclub at best, this mess im surprised can win a damn game. Harts in love with draft picks and low level players so this team is right up his alley! And hes not a supporter of Gonzales never has been and you watch, in 2 weeks Freddi G will be gone


rambunz
rambunz

The Braves should be offering free admission for fans (what few remain) since the team isn't worth paying to see play.  Free admission might at least build some type of fan loyalty.  Public financing of a new stadium for this bunch of baffoons is criminal.

SunDropMan
SunDropMan

@rambunz  Perhaps they should pay fans to attend the games, maybe $50 each and make the refreshments free. That way they might get about ten thousand or so for the rest of the year. As for me they would have to make it about a thousand to waste my time.

_GodlessHeathen_
_GodlessHeathen_

If the Braves were trying to lose they would be undefeated.

Ron McKeever
Ron McKeever

It will be five years or more before Atlanta will ever have a winning team.  The front office needed to be cleaned out several years ago.  Look at what the fans are to endure.  Sheeeeesssshhhh

Braves1945
Braves1945

The 2015 Braves will end the season as a non-competitive team under very weak management. A perfect compliment to a disastrous season.


As we all look towards next season with Fredi and his team extended, I sure am not in line to purchase the MLB package so that I can watch a product like this.


And 2017, this is almost funny.

fatz2fly
fatz2fly

Rebuilding starts with leadership, not players. The front office seems to ignore this important point.  Gonzalez is not the skipper around which a championship team can be built.  If he is still around after this dismal season ends, we will know that the Braves are not serious about winning pennants.

seminoleking
seminoleking

wait, there is actually DEBATE about whether the players are trying to win or not, when its OBVIOUS that the front office ISNT?????? lmao

escapeplan
escapeplan

Hate to say it, but the Braves' 2017 "rebuilding effort" (and yes, I know we can't call it that), is a big failure.  None of the young talent that they have signed (and kept) in the last 2 years - perhaps notwithstanding Andrelton - shows any promise of being a Top 10 at his position.  I'm sorry, but Freddie cashed in and is going to prove to have topped out.  Bethencourt?  A bust.  Peraza - where is he now?  The outfield will all be using walkers in another 18 months.  Teheran and Shelby? They MIGHT be #2s or #3s under a better pitching coach, but they are #1s here only because of who they are up against.


The Braves have squandered everything they have gotten in return for trading their top talent.  They couldn't manage a JayVee team to victory, and there has to be a dang indian burial ground beneath the bullpen.  And if Doctor James Andrews isn't building a new wing in honor of Roger McDowell, then he's ignoring the best generator of business that the medical field has ever seen.


Hexed, cursed, just plain incompetent, who knows.  But here's my wager - the Braves won't win another 162 games between now and the END of the 2017 season.  They have quite a few more last-place finishes in store for us fans.