Would somebody please stop the Braves before they win again?

Atlanta Braves' Ender Inciarte, center celebrates with assistant hitting coach Jose Castro, left, as he comes off the field after a baseball game against the San Diego Padres, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 8-1. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Those foolhardy Braves celebrate another victory. (AP Photo/John Amis)

The Atlanta Braves awoke this first day of September as the 29th-best team in baseball. This is terrible news.

For five months, they’d clung to last place like grim death. As Month No. 6 (of 6) commences, they’re hell-bent on blowing it. They were 13-14 in August, a month that will live in infamy. And those Minnesota Twins  — there’s a team that knows how to tank!

On Aug. 16 and 17, the Twins lulled the Braves to sleep by sweeping a pair at Turner Field and leaving town 4 1/2 games ahead. (Or behind, depending on your slant.) They haven’t won since. They’re 0-for-their-last-13. That’s the way you do it.

Also this way: While the Braves were recalling Matt Wisler from the minors and watching him win two Utterly Meaningless games, the Twins were demoting their best young arms to Rochester, even though — as La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune archly noted — “the minor-league season ends in just 10 days.” (Granted, Jose Berrios and Tyler Duffey were stinking it up in the majors.)

The upshot: With 29 games to go, the Braves no longer control their destiny. The No. 1 pick in the 2017 MLB draft is the Twins’ to squander, and they don’t appear in a capricious mood. They’re serious about this.

Maybe you’re saying, “Wait a second. Would finishing 29th be so bad?” The answer — pardon the shouting — is HECK YES! If you’re going to tank-to-rebuild, you’d really like to have the 1-1 pick to exercise somewhere along the line. Even if there’s only one team picking ahead of you, that’s one team that has the right to pick the guy you might want.

Example: The Braves were so wretched in August and over the first half of September last season that they closed within a game of the last-place Phillies. Know what happened next? They swept three games from Philly. They won 10 of their final 15. Not only didn’t they finish 30th — they messed up 29th, too. The rampaging Cincinnati Reds lost 14 of their final 15 and finished 64-98 to the ham-handed Braves’ 67-95. Darn that Fredi Gonzalez!

And maybe now you’re saying, “What’s the difference? The Braves would have picked a high school pitcher no matter where they drafted.” I’m not so sure about that. I think there’s a real chance that, had they held the No. 2 overall pick, they’d have taken the Tennessee infielder Nick Senzel and there’d have been the college bat many among you wanted. Senzel is a Red now. He’s hitting .291 with seven homers and 37 RBIs in 64 minor-league games.

Granted, the high-school righty Ian Anderson hasn’t been a dud. The Braves’ top pick has an ERA of 2.14 with 31 strikeouts against 11 walks in 33 2/3 pro innings. And having the 1-1 doesn’t guarantee success: The Astros had it three years running — masters of tankery, they were — and got it right only with Carlos Correa. They dumped Mark Appel in the Ken Giles trade; Brady Aiken declined to sign.

And the last time the Braves had the 1-1, they wanted Todd Van Poppel, who would win 40 big-league games. They got scared off and wound up settling for Chipper Jones, who’s headed to Cooperstown. But still: Having the 1-1 paid off, did it not? Had the Braves held the No. 2 pick, they might have been stuck with Tony Clark. Here are their career WARs, per Baseball-ReferenceChipper 85.0, Clark 12.5.

Bradley’s Rule: If you’re going to tank, tank to win. (Meaning lose.) If the Braves finish with the second-worst record in baseball, Brian Snitker’s not popping any champagne corks. But I’m reasonably certain John Coppolella and Brian Bridges and the scouting crew will be sitting in a conference room next June thinking, “We lost 101 games; was 103 too much to ask?”

Reader Comments 0

27 comments
jac200
jac200

absolutely. what is happening is what i was scared of. the braves mgmt and their "pay me and i will say whatever you tell me" tv folks chip caray and joe simpson will use this "winning" to make it sound like this year wasnt that bad. 

TideDawg
TideDawg

Bradley, of course you knew it would be Lambert......right after he was named the starter.

TideDawg
TideDawg

My guess is that the Braves have already decided who the manager will be next year......not Snitker, because the commitment to someone else is a done deal. Snitker is a valuable asset for the Braves. He knows how to handle the kids and he has been a good field manager. Find a place for him and pay him well, Braves......you need him in the organization.

davidputty
davidputty

If the Braves win 63 games, then Snitker should be NL Manager of the Year.  Nice article, even if some readers missed the sarcasm.  By the way, Henry Aaron wanted Chipper over Van Poppel all along.

TideDawg
TideDawg

7 wins out of the last 11 games. Fire Snitker! He's going to cost the Braves that high draft pick that they covet.

patriotdog
patriotdog

For clarification purposes, Van Poppel wasn't drafted by the Braves because he told them he wouldn't sign with them as they were an awful team then.....kind of like now. Chipper was their next choice...and the franchise fortunes started to turn.

It's been 25 years, that kind of luck is about due again. Meanwhile, Hart and Coppy keep piling up prospects.

Now, if we can just get Hart to NOT hire Bud Black for next year....

revt
revt

I'm really worried that if they keep winning they won't have 100 losses. Seriously, that's what I want to see this year. If you're going to suck, suck with gusto. And we got a mailer today for season tickets next year. The whole thing was about how comfortable the seats would be. Not one work about -- you know -- the team. So next year's motto is apparently, "Watch awful baseball in comfort."

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

Enough about the "competitors," "pride," "professionals play to win" crap. Finishing second or third from the bottom is not a victory for this franchise. Neither is finishing dead last, but at least you get first pick o' the talent which, let's face it, is the only win this season had any hope of salvaging. Idiots look to be blowing that too.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

Sooooooooo...now you want them to lose, Mark? After a season of crowing about how much better the team plays under Snitker than Gonzales? You know, that guy you begged the John's to fire because he was losing so much? That guy, the one that would have been fired at the end of this season anyway (like Snitker)? Now you care about draft position? It's a wonder you ever remember how to turn on your laptop...

Polskidawg
Polskidawg

People, its an attempt at humor.


Chipper will be only the SECOND overall #1 pick to make the Hall of Fame - Griffey, Jr being the first.


Also, there is no clear best available/can't miss player for '17 (really, is there ever one?).


Early reports for drafts '15 and '16 are looking promising, much to the chagrin of anti-Hart/Coppy folks. 

TideDawg
TideDawg

They're no longer the worst team in MLB.

BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

Even if the Brave's had the top pick in the draft they probably would pick the 10th best player.The "Bungle in the jungle"of Atlanta by picking Ian Anderson in the last draft should prove that!

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Maybe Coppy wants to lose the Biggest Loser contest so he can claim some shred of credibility for claiming they weren't tanking?


I'm reminded of how we were told Evan Gattis could not play left field. Let's see, they immediately progressed through EY Jr., Gomes, Swisher et. al. [down] to Matt Kemp . . . If someone runs off with your life savings pray it is Matt Kemp - he'll drop it before he gets out the door.


I'm all for the Braves being competitive again in 2020 or 2025 or whenever "2017" falls on the calendar, but they can't take back the nose-thumbing tank job they've given us the past couple of years.

RonMexico
RonMexico

@DawgDadII Are you arguing that Gattis can play LF and the Braves somehow blew it by trading him? Because he's freaking awful in the outfield, and barely serviceable as a catcher. 

In return, we got Folty, who is shaping into a solid piece of the rotation for years to come, and Rio Ruiz, who has been promoted through two levels of the Minors (now at AAA) since we got him. 

DAWGnGA
DAWGnGA

@RonMexico @DawgDadII

The return for Gattis is going to be quite nice.  Yet the comparison of him to Kemp, I can understand.  Gattis will hit 245-260 and about 25 HRs.  Not a lot different than Kemp.  They both play the OF like they forgot which hand the glove goes on, but I still think Gattis plays better than Kemp.  Now other the the return in the trade, just comparing the two, I would rather have Gattis for the money than Kemp.  His payroll keeps the Braves from adding say a McCann (whos best days are behind him also) or anyone!  Kemps best days are far behind him in the field.  He is slow, out of shape, clumsy in the field and a poor arm.. Kemp adds a presence behind Freeman, but I dont think it is as much as you might think.  I dont think pitchers fear facing Kemp instead of Freeman.  If they need to make a choice, they will pitch around Freeman.  


This all being said, I will take Folty for Gattis.  So I am stuck with Kemp.  


Next move should be to trade Markakis, who is adequate in the field but not more than a 7th place hitter.  We have plenty of those.  I see Ender in right next year and Malix in center.  

RonMexico
RonMexico

@DAWGnGA @RonMexico @DawgDadII Gattis is a .249 career hitter and quite literally the worst defensive outfielder I've ever seen in 40 years as a baseball fan. That's why he's now a DH in Houston. I love the guy's spirit, but he's the definition of a one-trick pony.  And what do we need with McCann, besides a bit of nostalgia? We saw how much that meant with Francoeur. McCann should absolutely be welcomed back with open arms -- just as soon as he retires from playing. He'll make a great coach or manager someday.

You should look at Freeman's numbers before Kemp got here and after. It's a huge improvement, and it was almost instant. We have a 3-4-5 that teams have to respect and pick their poison. 


khd713
khd713

Obviously, quite a few readers missed the tongue-in-cheek flavor of this article. It's interesting to think about tanking for the No. 1 pick, though. I mean, there are players who come along every once in a while who are real franchise changers – the Mike Trouts and Bryce Harpers. If I am the general manager and one of those guys is out there, and my team is within a game or two of last place, then heck yes I am going to do whatever I can to make my team finish last, i.e, announce that Tehran, Wisler, Folty, Freeman, Kemp, and Swanson all came down with stomach cramps, put them on the 60-day DL, and call up a bunch of single-A players to take their place. From what I've heard, though, there are no Trouts or Harpers in the next draft, so I don't think tanking would be worth it, although it sure sounds like the Twins are giving it their best shot. 


I'm not sure tanking is as easy to manage as some people might think. You hear about in the NBA and NFL ("Suck for Luck"), but really, how exactly do you pull that off? Do you hold a team meeting and the GM and manager announce that from now on we are going to try to lose every game? What professional player is going to go along with damaging his personal statistics for the rest of the season all so the team can draft a player who might end up taking his place? Not likely. And the scenario above wouldn't work either. No healthy player, especially one who is playing well, would go along with a false DL assignment. I think the only way you could do it would be to "manage to lose", i.e., the manager starts messing with the lineup, pulling pitchers at odd times, sending runners at bad times, etc. I think that's about the only way to pull off a tank, and, of course, it would be pretty obvious to the players who probably wouldn't appreciate it very much. In the end, tanking is probably more trouble than it's worth, but if there were a Trout or Harper to be gained, I'd sure be tempted.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@khd713  Tanking is easy, winning isn't. A competition for last place is still a competition, there are no guarantees. You started down the right path . . . you don't throw the games, you throw the roster. 


In the big picture, most fans understand the GM cannot guarantee a winning team, but the GM CLEARLY can ensure a losing team (Coppy can still make trades). "Major League" was fantasy, this team did not have a prayer of sniffing .500.


Maybe things are moving in the right direction , we'll see. 

Gritzblitz
Gritzblitz

Seriously Mark? Please stop that, I'm paying for this newspaper.

ErnestB
ErnestB

Professionals never play to lose, they have too much pride to do that.  Maybe this is a 'tongue in cheek' opinion piece by Mark.

E983
E983

You're funny Mark Bradley. Anyway, it's nice watching these guys play. Their picks in June will make a difference if they do their homework but it's a toss of the dice no matter who they chose. Right now I'm impressed with several of these kids. I see them in the race real soon and we can make those aquisitions at the July 31st deadline instead of wondering if we're gonna lose one we've grown to enjoy. By the way, Houston still has to figure it's path. But they're close.

mgunter
mgunter

Bradley...... It's baseball , these guys are competitors , you always play to win!

AnsweredTHIS
AnsweredTHIS

So now you advocating for them to lose?  Come on man! I feel suckered because I used one of my "free reads" to read this article with you advocating for the Braves to lose. Fudge the part about being professionals and not breeding a culture of losing.  That is like saying since they are tanking why would you write a have decent article to talk about it?  How about just darn the article to heck and fill it full of typos and grammatically incorrect language?  Why? Because you are a professional and you wont do that no matter how bad the team gets.


GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

Meaningless articles like this are proof that football can't start soon enough around here.

MatthewC.
MatthewC.

@GeorgeJetsen the AJC thinks letting someone like me read four of these articles that I'm going to buy a subscription.

brushback69
brushback69

@MatthewC. @GeorgeJetsen


just hit the escape key several times when the page is loading and then you can get all the articles you want as long as you continue that with each new page you load...