Posted: 11:30 pm Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Braves out of first — not they deserved to be there 

By Jeff Schultz

Ervin Santana was dinged early with a first-inning homer by Philadelphia's Ryan Howard. (Curtis Compton)

Ervin Santana allowed a first-inning homer to Phillies’ Ryan Howard. (Curtis Compton)

You know that question some people have asked about the Braves: How is this team in first place? Well, there’s no reason to ask that question right now.

In losing to the last-place Philadelphia Phillies for the second straight game 5-2 Tuesday night, the Braves fell one-half game behind the Washington Nationals in the National League East.

The significance of a half-game deficit with 92 games to go? Bupkis.

The significance of scoring three runs in two games over 22 innings against a Phillies team that ranked third from the bottom in the National League in ERA (3.95), as well as committing two errors and a passed ball in Tuesday’s win? Yeah, that’s kind of big.

The Braves opened the season 17-7 (.708). They’re 19-27 (.413) since. After closing out this homestand and this series, mercifully, Wednesday against the Phillies, they will head out on an 11-game road trip that begins with four games in Washington.

How the road trip goes certainly could influence general manager Frank Wren’s decision on whether or not to make a major move (if that’s even possible with this roster). For more on that, here’s a link to the MyAJC column.

But back to Tuesday’s game and the abysmal performance by this lineup. Manager Fredi Gonzalez repeated a reporter’s question, saying, “Yeah, we had some opportunities.”

But not many. Not really. They managed only two runs and six hits in seven innings against their personal tormentor, Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick, who is kind of mediocre against everybody else (he entered the game with a 2-6 record and a 4.09 ERA). They left four runners on base compared to the Phillies’ 11. So if any team had opportunities, it was Philadelphia.

The Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a Ryan Howard homer off of Ervin Santana. They haven’t trailed in the series. This is a team that hasn’t had a .500 record since May 5. (They’re now 31-38 after consecutive wins.) There has been speculation they will be sellers at the trade deadline and will try to unload some of their high-priced talent.

But the Braves have had a habit this season of ending teams’ slumps. It’s one of their many bad habits.

Instant re-post: Recent blogs and columns (free links)
– MyAJC: Nats, trip may force Braves to make a move
– Blog: Possible Braves’ moves: Bethancourt up, B.J. to bench?
– Blog: Is it time to drop Freeman in batting order?
– MyAJC: Is La Stella that Prado-like spark Braves need?
– Blog: With ‘Hard Knocks,’ Falcons camp just became a clown show
– Blog: Weatherspoon injured (Is this happening again?)
– MyAJC: Braves’ Wren has hardest task of Falcons’ GMs
– Blog: Braves are golden … or doomed (you decide)
– MyAJC: Falcons need Bryan Cox to lead them to ‘the edge’
– Blog: Richt, Pruitt justified in making changes
– Blog: NCAA is still living in a fantasyland
– MyAJC: Kennesaw State’s footprint just got bigger
– Blog: Hawks’ assistant Snyder may get Utah job
– MyAJC: Hawks not as far from top in NBA as thought
– MyAJC: Georgia State’s Miles on SEC’s whines: ‘That’s their problem’
– Blog: SEC coaches don’t want rules skirted (Wait. What?)
– Blog: Braves’ move shouldn’t mean Uggla’s out…yet
– MyAJC: Cobb’s embarrassing handout to Braves hits the finish line
78 comments
AllenInAlabama
AllenInAlabama

If you have a better record than your opponent, you deserve to be in first place ... but you have to keep it, for which the Braves haven't done of late.  The problem the team has is it can't unload ANY of the $60M they would liek to get rid of ... without just dumping them ... which is probably what will happen to Uggla in the middle of next year and BJ 3.5 years from now when it isn't as big of "loss".

MrDiyala
MrDiyala

On the comment about Bourn, very correct, another thing was that Bourn was a gamer and solid performer who at least played hard.  I would take Juan Pierre right now with his pop gun arm.  That guy was/is the hardest working guy in baseball.

BJ Flopton has got to go, but you got to tip your hat to that walk he had...impressive.

Frank and Fredi, us old Braves fans who have watched and seen this franchise turn around from loserville into winnerville don't like this trend.  All we ask is what Cox asked, play hard, play right and give it 100%.

BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

Is it time for the Brave's to back up the U-HAUL?.........................I hope not!

POAD2014
POAD2014

 Braves are just bad right now.

Bill72
Bill72

Last I checked, the team that won the most games while losing the fewest was in first place.  Did something change?  So if the Braves won more games and lost fewer than the other teams in their division and were in first place, I would say your comment that the Braves didn't "deserve" to be in first place seems a little stupid to me.  But your results may vary. 

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

splash

The sound of LaStella moving to the leadoff spot, where rooks do not belong.

sink

The sound of LaStella's batting average as leadoff batter.

woosh

The sound of LaStella moving out of leadooff (maybe back to the minors)

Lobosolo
Lobosolo

Shultz, just watched your little video... seems a "writer" would know that baseball has a long season... you're no better than the fair-weather whiners all over these blogs... Try reading some real writers and pick up a few pointers... you write about as well as BJ hits...

sea8491
sea8491

I have been a Brave fan since 1957, first year I did not buy the baseball package.


Last years loss in the playoffs to the Dodgers may have claimed my Atlanta Brave heart.


B J Upton was the icing on the cake, why play him anymore?  Cut your losses and write him off


Can't even watch the free Brave games on television anymore., so tired of losers, can not believe the Braves  were swept the by the Phillies at home?


Wished George Steinbrenner would have owned the Atlanta Braves, demand results!



sea8491
sea8491

Hey Brave fans, there is only one correction that needs to be, take B J Upton out of the lineup and off the roster, do not care what the braves do with him, he no longer belongs in the major leagues.


He is hurting the whole team especially when he bats second.  Why would an opposing pitcher give Heyward (or any other leadoff man) anything to hit when the opposing pitcher knows B J Upton will follow Heyward?  Doesn't Freddie Freeman follow with two outs and no base runners?  Wouldn't you want Freddie Freeman to hit with men on base?


And then Justin Upton follows in the next inning with no one aboard?


When will the sun shine?  When will the changes come?  The dye has been cast.


How long would George Steinbrenner have tolerated this non sense?


Patience is a virtue but not with clueless losers.

Ersatz
Ersatz

Another new stadium for another terrible team.

BSNBC
BSNBC

The Braves will get a few win streaks but when it's time to face good pitching, they will fold like a cheap tent!

MichBravesFan
MichBravesFan

awful team, just awful, I don't know where to begin, no clutch hitters, no sold bullpen, 2 starters look like they've fallen apart---no leadoff hitter, the worst CF in baseball, chris johnson at 3b, the list goes on and on---

JSW73
JSW73

Think about this. Huddy is pitching in SF. Was not resigned because ATL has young pitching. The two that replaced Huddy are not even in the rotation. One is in AAA, and the other, the BP, but should be in AAA. Oh yeah and 2 more shelved I with TJ. Harang and Floyd are journeymen. They are avg. and below. But yet Huddy is in SF about to go to the playoffs because FW would not pay him market value which was less than Santana.

Just one of the many moves FW has made to destroy the foundation of a once competitive team.


inoto20
inoto20

Rely on Wren for a major move? That's what got them in this mess in the first place.

ChipperisGod
ChipperisGod

Imagine if we had just kept so many of our high OBP/good defensive players.


We'd have:


1. Bourn

2. Prado

3. Freddie

4. Gattis

5. J-hey

6. La Stella

7. Infante

8. Simmons


Much better defense, higher on base percentage, better batting averages and only really two streaky hitters and below average hitter (Gattis, Heyward and Simmons respectively).


Take away Bourn and you have BJ.  Worse defender than Bourn, worse avg, worse obp


Take away Prado and you have CJ.  Worse defender than Infante or Prado, worse average, worse OBP 


I'd really like watching this line up play.  A bunch of unselfish guys who hit the ball, don't strike out that much (with the exception of J-hey and Bourn) who play tremendous defense, and who know how to take a freaking walk.  


Yes they may not have so much power that Frank Wren values over everything, but that would be a fun team to watch there.  Different hero every night.  


Wren has f'd himself with long term extensions with CJ, Simmons, Uggla and BJ.  Simmons may be the best defender in the game, but he's worthless in this lineup with so many other inconsistent players around him.  CJ is predictably regressing to what he normally is.  A guy who can get singles, doesn't walk and plays bad D.  BJ is the worst every day player in baseball.


Good extensions with Freddie and Teheran and KImbrel.  Bad with everyone else.  Terrible big ticket moves with BJ, Kawakami, Lowe and Uggla.  


Frank did do well with finding incredibly valuable bullpen pieces over the years and the Michael Bourn trade.  Other than that, he's been worthless as a GM.  


This team needs to be blown up soon.  They don't walk, they don't hit homers anymore at the rate they did last year, and they can't hit anyone who is an above average pitcher. I really like Justin, but he's way too inconsistent and a bad defender.  I'd like to keep Freddie, Gattis, La Stella, maybe J-hey and Simmons (for D and he could become a decent hitter), Teheran, Minor, Kimbrel and Wood.  Everyone else is up for discussion.  


It's painful to watch this team struggle, it clearly isn't working.  I usually try not to knee jerk react to things, but it's impossible not to.  Below 500 for the last month and a half.  Losing series to Philly, Arizona, Boston and Seattle who all have below 500 records themselves at the time we played them I believe.


If we get lucky enough to make the playoffs this year, we will be obliterated in the playoffs.  We won't even get our standard game two victory where our hopes are raised and then mercilessly beaten out of us with some heartbreaking defeat(s) that only Atlanta sports can produce.  


I love my Braves, but I can't take this team's approach anymore.  I'll keep watching and going to games because I'm diehard, but this season is the most painful thing I've watched since Joey Devine served up that loss to Houston in 18 innings.



Wilbo
Wilbo

Oh, please, please, please, please can this possibly mean we will hear less n less n less about this loser organization? PLEASE!!!!!!


grh0317
grh0317

Say hello to 4th place in NL east Braves. Bludgeoned and swept by the last place 

Phils at home. No hitting, little pitching and weak fielding will do that for you. The 

Braves averages are getting so low that Uggla may be spotted back as the " clean up"

hitter with a mighty 165 average..

jdcigar
jdcigar

this team is going nowhere!  Fire Frank and Fredi now!

RangeRover
RangeRover

Amazing how AJC reporters and the Braves Beat Writer tippy toe around Gonzalez, ever afraid to ask the really tough questions.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

When does basketball season start?


 They have a sale going on at Big Lots!  Let's all run down and buy some cheap Chinese stuff!  I imagine that will be the attraction other Major League GM's will see when the Braves start to sell off their cr^p.

Hammerman
Hammerman

Today's line up is meaningless.The Nats will finally put us fans out of our misery.Half this everyday line up needs to go.Unless Heyward miraculously learns how to hit left handed pitching I trade him first, in spite of his good defense.Another .250 hitter who should be battling Johnson,Simmons,and Upton for the 8 hole.Sub .500 4th place.

DrPhill
DrPhill

This lineup will be interesting.  Even if it works, I expect business as usual against the Nationals, who are likely licking their chops like the big bad wolf.

DavidinVirginia
DavidinVirginia

Well, well...La Stella is leading off today, and both Uptons are on the bench. Methinks Fredi is tired of answering questions about BJ playing at all and about Heyward leading off. :-) Now, IF this will just turn into more than a one day thing (with parts of it, at least).

panamaralph
panamaralph

Itt  It was all LaStella's fault, if he would have hit 4 home runs like he is suppose to we would have won that game, better bench that boy Freddi.

DrPhill
DrPhill

I had a couple of jobs in my life where I dreaded going to work. That seems to be the case with most of the Braves players.  Attendance is dropping, and long-time fans, like me, are not watching or listening to games.  You would think that someone in Liberty Media would pay attention.  These problems are bigger than Wren, but there can be no improvement as long as Wren and his puppet manager are running the show.  Wren, with his absurd long term contracts,  has ensured there will be no fix for years to come.

TampGator1
TampGator1

@sea8491 


Suggest you go out to Turner Field and look out into the outfield and read the number of times the Braves have won a division championship.....including one WS.  The Braves are winners.  They are a winning franchise now and have been since the early 90s.  I too have been a Braves fan since Aaron, Mathews, and Spahn.  Still am...and always will be.  That is what real and true fans do. You should now go pull for the Marlins.  Their fans only show up when they are winning, so you would now fit in with them well.  Or, if you want baseball educate yourself, go visit Wrigley Field in Chicago, that is  if you really want to know what a real baseball fan looks like and sounds like.  Then, compare it to what you see most of the time at Turner Field.  Not the same.  Never will be, I must say.  There seemed to be more real Braves fans back in the 60s, 70s and early 80s.....when they were not winners.  But the  fans that showed up, and there were not many, came to watch and enjoy baseball.....and always pulled for the Braves....win or lose.  

TampGator1
TampGator1

@sea8491 


Yeah....B.J. really hurt the team getting a walk and scoring the winning run vs. the Nats last night.  But, I agree that he should not be hitting 2nd in the lineup anymore.,  I would suggest at least give this lineup a try: 


SS Simmons

2B LaStella

1B Freeman

C Gattis

LF J. Upton

RF Heyward

3B Johnson

CF B. Upton

HUDDYS1FAN
HUDDYS1FAN

@ChipperisGod Exactly, knowledgeable fans know that truly great teams are built around pitching and defense. Then add in some fundamental baseball, backed by power and speed....you have the San Francisco Giants.

Nashville Jeff
Nashville Jeff

@ChipperisGod  Wondering who you plan on playing at 3rd base w/your imaginary lineup.....Infante is a 2nd baseman, as is LaStella.  You must be slotting Prado in lf. Even if Prado and Infante were still part of the team, your lineup is a no go.  I do like your "keepers" and agree w/the "everybody else up for discussion."

58Supersports
58Supersports

@DrPhill  This being a day game after night game= subs playing.  Don't get your hopes up to much.

iamlistening
iamlistening

@DavidinVirginia YES!!!!!!!!! However, it goes back to normal after this game. Schafer hitting in the 8th spot indicates this will happen. Also with Pena replacing Simba and batting in the two hole, BJ will be right back at the 2 spot. 

khd713
khd713

@DrPhill I went to the game last night. It was packed. More than 41,000. That's OK, though. Keep on throwing out bs theories that you pull straight out of your rear end with no facts to support. That's exactly what these forums are for, apparently.

58Supersports
58Supersports

@DrPhill  What is Wrens contract?  Cots Contracts .com= Braves...  just said 2015.

He should be made to pay back all the millions he cost Liberty.

BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

@TampGator1 @sea8491 Good suggestion but why hasn't Gonzalez went back to last summers top of the hitting order of  Heyward,Justin Upton,Freeman,Gattis and Johnson?Freeman drove in alot of runs with these guys in front of him!

Nashville Jeff
Nashville Jeff

@58Supersports @DrPhill  Exactly.  This was only a makeshift lineup.  Expect Fredi to put the horrendous bust right back in cf.  Guess he could keep LaStella up at the top, as well as trying Simmons in the 2 hole w/JHey at 5, but it's doubtful.  Wish he would give that a shot for a week or so.

DavidinVirginia
DavidinVirginia

@khd713 @DrPhill I watched parts of last night's game on TV...if there were 41K people in Turner Field last night then a whole bunch of them came disguised as empty seats.

We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again
We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again

@khd713 @DrPhill 

Yesterday's game may have been well attended, but the Braves are averaging 2,000 fewer fans a night compared to last season.

We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again
We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again

@58Supersports @DrPhill 

This is why a team needs an owner who's a public face for the organization. The Falcons have had their share of screw-ups, but at least you know if things go south again this season that Arthur Blank is not going to hesitate to clean house. There's no sense of that at all with the Braves. We can trash Wren and Gonzalez until we're blue in the face on these blogs, but where is the real accountability coming from? I hear nothing from anyone in the organization critiquing their performance or providing any indications of their job security. It seems Wren possesses almost autocratic control over baseball operations.

khd713
khd713

@DavidinVirginia Attendance, not purchased tickets – the actual attendance – was 41,631. That's how many people went through the turnstiles. I was there, and you watched it on TV, but somehow your assessment is more valid? Come on, man. Are you stupid?

khd713
khd713

@We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again Hey, a fact! How about that. I would prefer to see a comparison of attendance on June 18, 2013 to June 18, 2014, as that would be more valid. But, thank you for posting an actual statistic. I'm not surprised attendance is down. This team isn't performing nearly as well as last year's team, so that's to be expected. But for you to suggest that fans are tuning out in droves is specious at best. I don't see any evidence of that, and I would seriously doubt that it's true.

Birdhair
Birdhair

@We_Will_Get_Fooled_Again Sad part is that Wren overstepped his boundaries, broke prior company policy of one year contracts for mgmt, and handed himself a 3 year contract. No accountabillity.

DavidinVirginia
DavidinVirginia

@khd713 @DavidinVirginia Are you just an as*hole? You think someone at ground level, with people and other obstructions all around, has a better view than someone looking at high overhead shots from TV coverage? I think you need to do some work on figuring out that who's stupid thing. A mirror might help with that. Or did all those folks with the tickets for those empty seats get up and go get a beer or go to the restroom at the same time? That human wave must have been quite a sight. You're lucky you didn't get trampled.

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

@khd713 

Wow! The game you went to had a lot of people!?! I'm sold! Based on your anecdotal evidence, the Braves are on course to set a single season attendance record! Oh...wait...it doesn't work that way does it.

Early summer attendance is boosted by school being out (fact). If the team is unimpressive, those numbers will crash. This team IS unimpressive. It's like Atlanta Hawks unimpressive. Common sense and experience lead people to this conclusion to say nothing of stats which you should be capable of finding yourself.