Now hear this: The Braves’ rebuild is progressing nicely. Really

Ozzie Albies flies home. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Their best starting pitcher, going by Baseball-Reference WAR and plain old ERA, has been R.A. Dickey, who’ll turn 43 two days before Halloween. For a moment last weekend, the heralded keystone combo (aggregate age: 43) was hitting .400 – .215 for Dansby Swanson, .185 for Ozzie Albies. On Monday, the Braves were beaten by Andrew Albers, who they’d traded to Seattle 11 days earlier for cash.

There are times in every rebuild when progress seems so incremental as to be measured in angstrom units. For the Braves, this is such a time. The glow of being a .500 team in mid-July has yielded to reality. The Bartolo Colon experiment fizzled. Sean Rodriguez played 15 games here. Julio Teheran has been terrible. Swanson, star of Cobb County billboards, was sent to Gwinnett. Johan Camargo, who supplanted Swanson at shortstop, tripped over the foul line. And yet …

The erudite Joe Sheehan writes in his newsletter: “Look for the Braves to start getting a lot of buzz this fall and into the winter as a potential challenger to the Nationals as soon as next season.”

Because we monitor the team on a daily basis and because a baseball season lasts six months, we can grow frustrated if not fatalistic. We can say things like, “Are they EVER going to get good again?” The answer is available only if you take a few backward steps, so as to behold the forest and not just a tree or two. That answer is: Yes, they will.

Jeff Luhnow took control of the Astros in December 2011. In his third season – the first two having seen 107 and 113 losses – Houston finished 70-92. Carlos Correa was in high Single-A. George Springer made his big-league debut and hit .231 with 114 strikeouts in 78 games. The Astros wouldn’t nose above .500 until 2015, Luhnow’s Year 4, when they went 86-76 and claimed a wild card.

Theo Epstein left the Red Sox for the Cubs in October 2011. In his third season – the first two having seen 101 and 96 losses – Chicago finished 73-89. Kris Bryant moved from Double-A to Triple-A. Kyle Schwarber had just been drafted. Javier Baez made his big-league debut and hit .169 with 95 strikeouts in 52 games. In 2015, Epstein’s Year 4, the Cubs won 96 games and made the playoffs.

Even the fastest rebuilds take time. Some take lots of it. Dayton Moore left the Braves to become the Royals’ general manager June 8, 2006, two days after Kansas City picked Luke Hochevar No. 1 overall. Over the next seven years, Moore’s team would have a top-10 pick six times, and still it took Kansas City until 2013 to finish with a winning record. The core of Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas would ultimately reach the World Series – in Moore’s eighth full season.

The Braves lost 95 and 93 games in Years 1 and 2 under John Coppolella and John Hart. They’re on pace to finish 73-89. Yes, that would be a bit of a disappointment after 45-45, but only a bit. The Braves wanted to put a halfway decent team on display in SunTrust Park – note that none of the other rebuilders mentioned had to open a new stadium in Year 3 – and through 90 games they were just that.

If the Braves’ rebuild has looked different from most, the ballpark was the chief reason. Without a new audience to serve, they mightn’t have signed Colon and Dickey or traded for Jaime Garcia and Brandon Phillips. On Talking Chop, the blogger Ivan The Great makes a salient point: From the start of the 2015 season through Saturday’s games, the Braves had gotten less production (going by FanGraphs WAR) from rookies than any MLB team. To which we’re tempted to say: Some rebuild, huh?

Well, that’s coming. Ronald Acuna isn’t here yet and probably won’t be until 2018. Here’s who else could be right behind: Luiz Gohara, Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka and Austin Riley and maybe Alex Jackson and Touki Toussaint, with Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright not far behind. (And don’t forget Kevin Maitan.)

Asked Wednesday about his work in progress, Coppolella said: “If I could buy stock in one major-league team – and with us, I guess I can – it would be the Atlanta Braves.”

Check those early returns on the Astros’ Springer and the Cubs’ Baez. Don’t seem all that different from what Swanson/Albies have posted, do they? Note the ERAs for Houston’s now-ace Dallas Keuchel in his first two big-league seasons – 5.27 and 5.15. Sean Newcomb’s is 4.13; Lucas Sims’ is 4.13. And a 73-win season mightn’t seem like much, but it’d be on the same level as the Astros and Cubs in their Year 3s.

We’re disposed to want everything and want it now, but some things can’t be rushed. Not every prospect pans out. (Hochevar’s career record is 48-65.) There are potholes along every upward trail. What the Braves are doing should work. To borrow from Jackson Browne: Don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet.

Reader Comments 0

62 comments
papovufor
papovufor

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justabitoutside
justabitoutside

Just an FYI... the total salaries of the nine Cubs players mentioned by Buschleaguer is $20 million more than the total team payroll for the Braves this year.

PTC DAWG1
PTC DAWG1

I'm surprised the AJC lets you turn in articles on the sauce.  Or maybe I'm not surprised.  

-Evelyn..
-Evelyn..

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FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

Does anyone want to reflect on the fact that, until late in the Braves 14 division championship run, Bradley was the guy consistently picking AGAINST the Braves. He either hates winning teams or has no idea what they look like.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

He's also the guy picking against the only franchise in the city that is actually built to win right now (and for the foreseeable future). 

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

The Braves are bad but are gonna be good, I promise!

The Hawks are gonna be the worst team in the NBA next year, but that's a great thing!

The Falcons may be a Super Bowl team, but they're doomed.


Typical hot takes from MB, as he sits in Ressler/Coppolella's laps and writes nonsense.

dabicezar
dabicezar

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Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Mr.Bradley ,

The ownership of the CUBS has all the money in the world,at least relative to MLB teams. You bring up Baez, Rizzo and Bryant, but do not forget Jon Lester($25 Million )John Lackey ($16 Million) Wade Davis ($10 Million) Ben Zobrist ($16.5 Million) Jason Heyward ($28 Million) the departed Miguel Montero ($7 million) Jon Jay ($8 Million) almost forgot Jake Arrieta ($15.6 Million) and newly acquire Jose Quintana ($7 million) .

So Mark, in reality the Braves and Liberty media have very little in Common with the Cubs and their ownership.

justabitoutside
justabitoutside

As has been mentioned, the big issue with the Braves being able to contend for championships is the ownership. There is no commitment here to winning. Since you want to use the Cubs, Astros and Royals as examples of turnarounds, check the differences in team payrolls. Yes, those teams rebuilt their farm systems, but they also went out and got high-level veteran talent, and kept most of the quality players that came up through their systems, and that costs money. By the way, the latest numbers show that the Braves rank 23rd out of 30 teams in payroll, in a virtual tie with Cincinnati, a much smaller market. By comparison, the Cubs rank 9th, Royals 13th, Astros 16th. Every team in the NL East has a higher payroll than the Braves, even the notoriously cheap Marlins. This has been trending since Turner sold the team, and not coincidentally, the results have suffered during that time. Money isn't the cure-all, but it indicates commitment, shortens rebuild time and increases the chances of maintaining competitiveness over the long term. Not happening with Liberty Media.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Coppy , just exactly how much money is a share of the 2018 Braves worth, it is traded as a "Penny Stock"?

UnbiasedObserver
UnbiasedObserver

Geez Man.  


You REALLY believe that?    


They are no further along than they were last year.

Jayce Brittain Dickens
Jayce Brittain Dickens

The only foolish thing said was that Acuna won't be here to 18 despite the fact they are trying to feel seats

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

I would not  consider the Houston Astros to be a total success just yet, they need to advance at least to the league championship series this year or even the World Series. 

And the erudite Joe Sheehan must not be aware of the ownership issues in Atlanta ,(Liberty Media) ,Every team is a contender in the off season ,and the Braves front office has been known to try and paint a rosy picture about being competitive during the rebuild. I would have much more confidence in suggesting that the Marlin's with new ownership will be the main competition for the Nationals in 2018.

finek
finek

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sea8491
sea8491

What if the Brave Rebuild would have included keeping future hall of fame pitcher Kimbrel, keeping pitcher Alex Wood?  Playoffs this year?  Because of cheapness, the Braves would not just simply eat the contract of Melvin Upton, Jr. who was just released by the Giants.  Too bad the Braves rebuild did not first include new owners and the dismissal of Coppy and John Hart.  John Hart needs to retire, his time has passed.  Braves are a very lost franchise, bad owners, bad management and no desire to spend money, good luck

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@sea8491 It was hard not to trade Kimbrel to the Padres, and unload the $46 million BJ call me Melvin Contract.Liberty Media does not care how many games the Braves win, they only care about the bottom line (PROFITS). And as long as the Braves can turn a profit playing sub .500 baseball, look for the trend of dumping contracts and playing younger (cheaper) players to continue.

Anne Marin
Anne Marin

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TideDawg
TideDawg

Anybody got ideas why the announcers think the Braves won't bring Acuna up? Brian Jordan made that comment. It obviously has to do with money and keeping him longer before he can become a free agent. If that's true it would appear that they are pretty sure he's going to make it big time. They don't need him now because they don't have a legitimate major league rotation.

aulner
aulner

There is no way the Braves contend without better starting pitching.  Period...there is enough offense to be a wild card team with better quality starting pitching.  Replace JJ and there is 8-10 wins right there....The back of the bullpen can compete.


TideDawg
TideDawg

@aulner  They're going to have starting pitching. Consistently out of the bull pen is going to be the key. The kid (Minter) they brought in tonight is armed to win unless he gets coached back to Gwinnett.

Dan_B
Dan_B

@aulner "Replace JJ and there is 8-10 wins" ... couldn't agree more. Not sure how he is still pitching for this team...other than they must be trying to lose. He pitched this bad at the end of last season, except we were able to unload him. 

mc1362002
mc1362002

Another thing is.. the last time the Braves moved into a new ballpark, in 1997, they were making the playoffs every year.    This team won't do that for 2-3 years, likely.     The new ballpark will have to be the attraction the first couple of years, even if the team is not great

mc1362002
mc1362002

Mark, this is not going to be the 1991 worst to first Braves where they went 67-95 in 1990, and then almost won the World Series in 1991.   This rebuild will take time.   73-89 would be not bad, with progress hoped for each year.  If they could do 73-89, and then next year get to 500, and contend for a wild card within a year or two, that would be progress

DawgNole
DawgNole

@mc1362002: "73-89 would be not bad . . . ."

______________

Satisfied with sub-.500 play--yet another example ATL's steadily strengthening culture of losing in sports.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

@DawgNole @mc1362002 When the bloom begins to fade on the Braves' Condo-Office-Mini-Mall-Money-Printing-Factory, you will see how Atlanta fans treat losing teams; The seats will be empty. Like at Hawks games, like at Thrasher games, like at Falcons games before Blank bought the Falcons. The "culture of losing" is entirely driven by bad ownership. 


There is only one owner in this city that wants to win more than the fans do and that's Arthur Blank. Fans respond to that ambition knowing that it will pay off eventually (even Ted got his ring eventually). That's why the Falcons and the United are so well supported. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@FineousMcDirtyBird: "The 'culture of losing' is entirely driven by bad ownership."

_____________

I wouldn't say "entirely," but yes, horrific ownership plays a major role.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

@DawgNole @FineousMcDirtyBird You know the history though:


Tom Cousins (Flames/Hawks)

The Smiths (Falcons)

Pre-90's Ted Turner (Braves/Hawks)

Time Warner (Braves/Hawks/Thrashers)

Liberty Media (Braves)

The Atlanta Spirit (Hawks/Thrashers)

The Spirit Group (Hawks)

Tony Ressler (Hawks)


Not exactly a Steinbrenner-esque Murderers Row inspiring confidence to the victory hungry Atlanta fan base. The fans exist and are good fans. But we have better things to do than pay for what we know is a Dumpster fire out of the gate.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@FineousMcDirtyBird

Yes, I know the disgraceful history, and no, I'm not a Cobb County resident.

And yes, they are good fans, who deserve a helluva lot more than ONE championship from five teams covering 170-plus seasons and spanning more than half a century.

James B 2324
James B 2324

If we finish 73-89 it'll be a superb season.  Absolutely no reason at the start of the year to expect a better record than last year.  


The only real surprise was watching Swanson flounder and subsequently Coppy floundered leaving Swanson on the MLB roster for a few months too long.

Sodapop
Sodapop

Mark, that might just be the best, most positive column of yours that I have ever read.  You are a realist and i know with these Atlanta Franchises, it's tough to be positive, sometimes.  But thank you for putting a positive spin on what is 'the Great Braves Experiment of the late 20-teens. I knew you had it in ya....  :-)

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

@Sodapop He wrote a press release for a franchise that is more invested in building restaurants and corner stores than winning baseball games. Hooray Him!

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Sodapop: "But thank you for putting a positive spin on . . . ."

____________

"Spin" indeed!

NorwegianB
NorwegianB

Not sure we contend next year, but definitely expect to turn the corner and make some noise. Next 3-5 years may be special with all of the young talent we have on the way. Would love to see a private owner acquire the team.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@NorwegianBlue: "Would love to see a private owner acquire the team."

______________

THIS is what must happen for the rest of your post to become a reality.

lowlow
lowlow

The Simmons thing makes me mad - and has since it happened- but there have been some positive steps forward in the rebuild. However, I'll believe the pitching rebuild when I see it and I'm not seeing it now.

killerkowalski
killerkowalski

You folks bitching from your La-Z-Boys are full of crap.The rebuild IS going well, you're just too short-sighted to see it. Anybody remember the '90 Braves? Remember how bad Tom Glavine was? Steve Avery?  John Smoltz didn't start his career by winning 20 games. And yes, you do have to tear a team down to get better when the farm system is as bad as the Braves' was. The Cardinals didn't let theirs get as empty as the Braves, so no tear down needed. if those comparisons to the Cubs, Astros, and Royals don't show you how it's done, then stay the hell away from SunTrust. The Braves don't need you.

killerkowalski
killerkowalski

@DawgNole @killerkowalski Are you really that dense, DawgNole? I don't want to make this personal, but you don't seem to be comprehending what you're reading. No one is defending mediocrity. If the rebuild doesn't work, then management should lose their jobs, and probably will. But it will take a few years to find out. 

James B 2324
James B 2324

@killerkowalski It's going okay at best.  There's one glaring issue at the moment and that's the fact we have virtually no stud offensive players in the pipeline.  There's Albies & Alcuna, but then...  nada.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@killerkowalski

You're defending the Braves' strategy, dolt! THAT is defending mediocrity.

". . . it will take a few years to find out."

It's already been 22 years, fool--and 30-plus before that!

Raise your miserable standards.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

@killerkowalski The 90's Braves were greatly bolstered by being competitive in free agency. All the teams both you and Bradley mentioned showed willingness to spend money to both keep homegrown talent AND add top level mercenaries to win a championship. One thing this organization has proven time and time again since Liberty Media bought the team is that they don't want to spend to win. It's precisely why the organization is so geared towards farm-only talent acquisition. 


Liberty Media doesn't even have real skin in the game with their stupid cash cow real estate development. What makes you think they'll put any in to win baseball games?