Posted: 8:39 am Friday, August 15th, 2014

With Braves six back, is ‘fat lady’ singing? 

By Jeff Schultz

BravesfatLadyJeff

So is it over?

The Braves lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-4 Thursday. If you missed the almost-too-perfect inglorious ending, here’s a free link to my column on the game.

In brief, Justin Upton had to leave the game with a strained hamstring. His lesser brother B.J., who had been benched from the starting lineup because he’s hitting .209, was sent in as a pinch runner. He stayed in the game, and, of course, wound up being the key at-bat in the ninth inning. With runners on second and third base, B.J., batting in Justin’s spot, struck out.

The strikeout numbers on The Lesser Upton are staggering: He now has 301 in less than two full seasons. With 150 strikeouts already this season, he’s on pace for 201, which would set a franchise record. The only happy guy would be Dan Uggla, who owns the current mark of 168.

The Braves have lost 12 of their last 15 and they’re a season-high six games behind first place Washington in the National League East. At 61-60 and with 41 games left, the Braves’ elimination number is 37.

National League
East
Team W L Pct GB Home Road East Central West Last 10 Streak
Washington 66 53 .555 - 34 – 24 32 – 29 28 – 21 14 – 16 16 – 7 6 – 4 W 3
Atlanta 61 60 .504 6 34 – 28 27 – 32 30 – 22 15 – 7 12 – 21 3 – 7 L 1
Miami 60 61 .496 7 34 – 29 26 – 32 23 – 27 12 – 16 14 – 14 6 – 4 W 1
NY Mets 57 65 .467 10.5 28 – 30 29 – 35 27 – 27 12 – 15 10 – 16 4 – 6 L 3
Philadelphia 53 68 .438 14 26 – 36 27 – 32 22 – 33 12 – 14 15 – 11 4 – 6 L 3

Tim Williams, a talented cartoonist and passionate Atlanta sports fan, has weighed in with his thoughts on the Braves’ season in the above cartoon of a fat lady — wearing a Braves’ hat and holding a tomahawk — singing. For more of Tim’s work, you can go to TimWilliamsArt.net or follow him on Twitter @TimWilliamsArt.

This isn’t going out on a limb but I’d guess Tim’s right. The Braves are cooked in the East. Their best hope is to win one of the two National League wild card berths, and that’s not going to be easy. They’re three games out, trail three teams (St. Louis Pittsburgh, San Francisco) altogether and are playing the worst of the six teams realistically pursuing the two spots (Cardinals, Pirates, Giants, Braves, Cincinnati, Miami).

NL Wild Card Standings
Team W L Pct GB Home Road Last 10 Streak
St. Louis 64 56 .533 +0.5 34-25 30-31 5-5 W 2
Pittsburgh 64 57 .529 - 39-24 25-33 5-5 L 2

San Francisco 63 57 .525 0.5 30-31 33-26 4-6 W 1
Atlanta 61 60 .504 3.0 34-28 27-32 3-7 L 1
Miami 60 61 .496 4.0 34-29 26-32 6-4 W 1
Cincinnati 60 61 .496 4.0 32-29 28-32 4-6 L 3

The schedule doesn’t get easier. The Braves open a weekend series tonight against the Oakland A’s, who at 73-48 have the best record in the majors (73-48).

The A’s’ run differential this season: plus-168.

The Braves’ run differential this season: minus-4.

Is that singing I hear?

 Some recent ramblings (free links)
– MyAJC: B.J. Upton, Braves continue their zombie walk
– MyAJC: Cancer didn’t slow Michael Cooper
– Blog: Braves’ attendance reflects lack of confidence
– MyAJC: Falcons showing humility, lack of comfort — and that’s good
– Blog: Braves being hurt by shortage of leaders
– MyAJC: Can ‘Power 5′ conferences handle this power?
– Blog: Who’s most to blame for Braves’ fall? (vote in poll)
– Blog: Roddy White lost Twitter ‘bet’ and paid off in a big way
– MyAJC: Paul George’s injury shows risk of NBA players in tournaments
– MyAJC: Paul Johnson needs to impress his new boss at Georgia Tech
– Blog: Dan Uggla rejects demotion and is out of a job again
– MyAJC: Pruitt winning over Georgia in ways Grantham didn’t
– MyAJC: We’ll find out how right or wrong Frank Wren is
– Blog: It’s trade deadline day…and it’s quiet here
– MyAJC: Braves hamstrung by finances at trade deadline
– Blog: Urban Meyer gets it wrong on Tim Tebow
– MyAJC: Braves’ best postseason hope is starting pitching
– MyAJC: Steven Jackson: ‘I kind of believed my own hype’
– Blog: Poll: Falcons open camp, what’s your playoff pick?
– MyAJC: Falcons open with more questions than buzz
103 comments
panamaralph
panamaralph

The only real shot they have is to put BJ on the bench for the rest of the season then Gattis, Heyward, Freeman and Justin all must get hot at the same time and stay hot.

Flacons_go_2-14
Flacons_go_2-14

TIme 2 fire the loosing managar. He had a loosing recrod win they hire him so U no it was a mater of time B 4 it caut up with him loosin all the time.

Wilbo
Wilbo

And Matt Ryan goes 3-7 for 37 yards!?

drewK
drewK

Once again....what does it matter IF the Braves make the playoffs?

They have shown time and time again they simply are not playoff material.

reckingball
reckingball

The "weight-challenged lady" hasn't started  singing yet,......... but as pointed out  in prior comments, she has definitely started warming her voice up, in the pen.

There is still a very slight chance, that some kind of miracle could occur, and the hitters..........excuse me, the batters might start hitting, even hitting with RISP.

They have had some hitting spells in the past seasons. Look it up, it did happen last year, a couple of times.

Princess_Leia
Princess_Leia

Stick a fork in 'em, they're done. Nothing but a bunch of overpaid millionaires whose main concern is picking up their bloated paychecks.

LongT
LongT

The fat lady sang when they announced the move to Cobb.

JAS0N
JAS0N

Braves tryouts at lead-off are dizzying.

acgypsy
acgypsy

It's all over but the crying.

extremus
extremus

Jeff, she's already left the building and gone home.  As have many, many tired and frustrated Braves fans.

BravoDawg
BravoDawg

She's warming up in the bullpen, it's over fo sho! wish BJ would get lost like ol Pascual Perez on 285  lmao

NajehDavenpoop
NajehDavenpoop

I don't get the animosity towards Justin Upton though. He has the 2nd highest batting average and OPS on the team and leads the team in HR and RBI. He isn't just "a little valuable"; he's arguably the team's offensive MVP. Don't hold his brother against him.


JUp, Freeman, Heyward, and Gattis have mostly been positive contributors. It is the rest of the offense that has let the team down. Kinda similar to 2010 when the Braves got nothing outside the top 3 spots in the order.

NajehDavenpoop
NajehDavenpoop

The Braves have won in previous years with offenses approaching this level of ineptitude. The difference is on those teams the pitching was great. Not good, but great. This year's pitching is merely good, not great, and that's not enough to lift a below average offense.

ComaToes
ComaToes

There's one of your major differences in ballplayers from just a few years ago. They would play through these minor "puny" little injuries especially late in the season WHEN WINNING THE GAME IS IMPORTANT ! Wimps!  Just about everyone of them.  Much better chance of winning that game with Justin up to bat, than BJ.  Same thing happened last week with LaStella. Nothing but a cramp and he came out. A couple of things happened during the game that would have been different with him in there.  These guys make millions, but are all "wussies".  They either "hotdog" it like Puig and Harper, or sit out due to a "nothing" injury.  They don't make them like they use to.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

Speaking of singers in the spotlight ... How many Fredi Gonzalez' does it take to replace a burnt out spotlight?


Forgetaboutit!  The spotlight once worked, so you count on it finding its way to turning back on.

Esquire
Esquire

Don't leave the light on.....................

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

The Upton Brothers have less talent the Hudson Brothers (kiddies ask your parents). Justin has a little value his brother none. He has become the epic measuring stick for ineptitude.


As an organization they must become fundamentally sound up the middle again and that means Gattis is out too. Bentancourt, Simba, LaStella-Paraza, and anyone not named Upton.


Sorry, Kate.

Bogey
Bogey

Off-season To Do List:

- fire Wren

- hire John Hart as GM

- "invite" Schuerholz to retire by the time the new stadium is opened

- tell Hart he'll be promoted to club president when JS retires and he can then name his own GM


I'm saying Fredi is a great manager, but they've got to fix the front office first.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Is it possible the Braves could win the Division? Mathematically, yeah.


Wren missed an opportunity at the trade deadline to pick up a young minor league outfield prospect and plug him into center field. Maybe the Bonifacio thing will work out, but he's better suited for the super-sub role. Whatever, the fans aren't going to take this team seriously until they stop running BJ out there.


I caught a Rays-Rangers game the other night, and I have to say both lineups are full of holes. Maybe the Braves don't win this year, but they need to keep an eye on building for the future. If you're stuck with some .200 hitters in the building process that's understandable, if not excusable. If BJ were an early 20's prospect making the minimum this wouldn't be such a debilitating problem. As-is, it's a total train wreck.

Stinger2
Stinger2

There are "peaks" and "valleys" in every season. The Braves are in a valley now but have not peaked yet. All  of you who are giving up now should wait until the team rises from the valley and starts to go up toward the peak. And no, it did not peak yet even when it was 17-7. Go Braves. Sweep the A`s.

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

Clearly the Braves better days are behind them and the years without winning a playoff series will now extend to 14. Main question I have is what they're going to do about this in the offseason. Before eating BJ's contract, I'd try a new manager to change things up in the clubhouse and create a new spirit for the players. Wren should be replaced too but it's highly unlikely the Braves front office will make 2 changes like this in a year. Freddi's had plenty of time to demonstrate what he's capable of which is a playoff berth at best. Braves players and fans alike deserve more and need some real hope that status quo is changing. There has to be a sense that the 2015 team is one part of a larger plan to build something great in the future and not just another patchwork quilt trying to survive another season. All that said, I have zero confidence anything change worthy will actually happen until Mr. status quo himself, Genius John Scheurputz, is removed first.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Well they do have a "chance", they just need to go about 30-9 over the last few games.    

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

There was no one else, not on other possible pinch hitter on the bench?!? The only possibility was the guy leading the NL in strike outs?  Really? 


This is why Fredi has to go. He is not a bad manager, and matched up with the right team he could achieve great things.  He needs a team in the truest sense of the word ( not just an assemblage of players) - a team with players who, if he puts them into a situation, will respond positively to the confidence and trust he has in them and who can deliver. Players who know that he believes in them, and they believe in him  and themselves and respond with results. The Braves are not that team. 


I would bet a sizable sum that if Fredi is in this exact same situation again as we head down the stretch, he will send BJ, even with 20 more strike outs under his belt, to the plate. Fredi will be thinking that sooner or later, this guy will not let me and the team down. He is not capable of realistically and objectively assessing the situation. 


Every Braves fan at the game and every one watching on TV knew that BJ was going to strike out or make an out.  They knew that he was going to watch the first pitch sail right down the middle of the plate (as he does 95%) of the time which essentially  gives him only two strikes at every bat. The one guy who did not know this was the most important guy watching the game - Fredi. This is why he has to go. He was thinking that sooner or later BJ will not let me and the team down. He cannot objectively assess what he is dealing with here. 


Are people who feel this way just cynics disguised as fans, just causing trouble? No. Because this is what BJ has been doing since he got here. You dont have to make up cynical stuff. Fredi has sent him to the plate in critical situations for  almost two full seasons -- there is a real track record of non performance here . If Fredi were an SVP and the Braves were a business, Fredi would be gone and out on the street long ago for poor management, poor executive judgment, and failure to execute. 


But even as we get deeper into the stetch, you watch, Fredi will do the exact same thing again, as he has done from the get go.  One bright spot from a team like this that should have made the play offs but didn't, Fredi and Wren could both be gone next year, and hopefully Aaron along with them. 


Nacho Bravo
Nacho Bravo

Trade BJ to Toronto for Colby Rasmus and move JH to centerfiled. BJ has more speed, Colby has more power. BJ may find new life back in the AL East, and Colby is a GA boy so coming home may boost his numbers. Both teams are still in the wild card picture, so this may be a mutal benefit move.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

Every team potentially is a sports car in a race, with a V-8 engine and a seasoned driver behind the wheel.  Something happened at the Dan Uggla pit stop because the Braves have blown some valves and flattened some tires, while replacing the driver with a little girl whose legs can't reach the pedals.  Leaving the pit stop they have been and still are sputtering, backfiring, smoking, and wobbling their way to a road hazard, let alone last place.  Their race is clearly over.  No one sings for quitters.  They boo.


It it were a mangy, homeless dog with rabies and a bad temper about to kill your baby, you would put it out of its misery.  Let the Braves be Atlanta's bad dog, but keep it chained to a tree in the back yard and don't let anyone go near it.  Find Freeman, Simmons (A, not the rook), Gattis, Santana, and Teheran good homes, where (with proper care and feeding) they can prosper and return to a mindset that remembers teamwork, and chemistry, and realize again how much fun it can be - as adult males getting paid to play a child's game.  Don't ruin what little is good there is by putting a few good apples into a rotten bucket of vile waste.


Okay, enough metaphor.  The Braves finish in 4th place, a game ahead of the Phillies.  Perhaps they could have some bobblehead dolls of your friend's artwork and give them out to the first 769 fans that show up on Fan Appreciation Day in September.

WhiskeyBreath
WhiskeyBreath

Jeff, you are the master of the obvious. 

Brad told us this would happen at the beginning of the season .

Brad may be a Ga homer now like the rest of you, but he is still honest about baseball. 


DavidinVirginia
DavidinVirginia

It's not just that the strikeout numbers for BJ are overwhelming; it's that he does almost nothing else to make up for them. Mediocre defense, few walks, only occasional power, no situational hitting skills at all that he's willing to employ even if he has them. Playing him every day is basically saying to the other team, "we're going to spot you 3-4 automatic outs every game and try to beat you anyway." Some teams might be good enough at their other positions to do that and get away with it more often than not; this is not one of those teams.

BobStrickland
BobStrickland

The frustrating thing to me is that Fredi waited until we were too far behind to bench BJ. If BJ's and Uggla's time had been reduced early on, we might have a few more wins, which would be huge right now.


I know the odds are very much against us now, but a good hot streak coupled by a cold spell by the Nats could put us back into the race.  It is OK to hope...

DawgNole
DawgNole

@NajehDavenpoop

But exactly what HAVE they won in 47 previous years? Except for 1995, nothing that counts/matters.

Wilbo
Wilbo

@ComaToes Only a fool would risk worsening a hamstring injury.

Bogey
Bogey

OK, the AJC's wonderful software strikes again....above:  I'm "not" saying Fredi is a great manager...

reckingball
reckingball

@DawgDadII

Who was the young minor league OF prospect that they missed the opportunity on?

How could the Braves have gotten him?

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Stinger2

We've waited for 47 of the team's 48 seasons in ATL.

How much longer should we wait now?

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

@Stinger2 1957-1959 was a high peak.  1960-1965 was a valley.  1966-1969 was a little peak.  1970-1974 was the plateau of the Hank Aaron Slope.  1975-1979 was a Great Abyss.  1980-1983 was a molehill (which looked huge next to the Great Abyss).  1984-1990 was a deep rift.  1991-2013 was a mountainous peak.  Without personnel changes galore, this team stands (at 61-60) to represent the last winning percentage the Atlanta Braves will have for years to come.  

Wilbo
Wilbo

You're the man @GeorgeJetsen! If The Little General's most important contribution to the Braves as far as filling in the necessary missing piece goes was Fred McGriff - w/o whom there wouldn't even be the 1 lonely WS win. W all the team/organizational failures/embarassments to follow Schuerholtz became deeply entrenched in his own flagging ego. He long, long ago passed his usefulness to the team, and no major seed change is going to take place until the losing upper echelon of the Braves is swept out.

satchel
satchel

@Ficklefan playing uggla and bj upton every day finally drove this team into the toilet.  do you think the cardinals would have sacrificed their seasons at the altar of those two?   THIS is why braves fans are so frustrated.  it's august and wren, fredi, et al still wont field their best players!  i've never seen anything so inept.  

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Ficklefan: "One bright spot from a team like this that should have made the play offs but didn't, Fredi and Wren could both be gone next year, and hopefully Aaron along with them."

________________________

Are you forgetting that we're talking about ATL here? Not exactly a pro sports city known for making timely and appropriate management changes when its franchises struggle.

You did use the right words, though: SHOULD, COULD, HOPEFULLY.

Bogey
Bogey

@Ficklefan  First off, you are absolutely correct that everyone know BJ would strike out. But don't blame Fredi....blame BJ.


Look at the bench Wren has handed Fredi???  None of them hitting over .200 - who else should he have put up there?



Wren has got to go - too many bad, costly decisions. 

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

Same was true with Bobby Cox especially in the playoffs. What'd it get us? 1 WS ring in 5 WS appearances with at least 3 future HOF pitchers on the roster. If that's not gross mismanagement I don't what is. Time to end the 23 year streak of 'by the book' managers in ATL and find someone with some gut instincts and creativity.

RangeRover
RangeRover

@Ficklefan

Good points.  I remember when the Braves blew the 10 game lead to St Louis in September...Fredi never changed or deviated as the lead dwindled from 10-8-6-4-2-1, all the way to the very last game, a loss....maddening

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Nacho Bravo Are you insane?  What would it take to make you assume BJ's 45 Million liability contract.  You are going to assume responsibility for that?  I wouldn't take BJ for a bucket of used baseballs, if you threw in Craig Kimbrel.



RangeRover
RangeRover

@DavidinVirginia

Keep it simple...BJ is a terrible hitter!

That odd, quirky, imbalanced stance and swing of his is one of the worst I have ever seen.  I'm just baffled at what Wren and others were thinking when watching this man swing a baseball bat...epic failure of talent judgement on their part.

Yes, he has hit some home runs as most any major leaguer can do.  But clearly every one of his is strictly the ball finding his bat as even his home run swing looks stiff and unnatural.  I guess when you swing a bat at a ball about 2000+ times over a season you're bound to get lucky 10-15 times.

ChopChamps95
ChopChamps95

@BobStrickland  "The frustrating thing to me is that Fredi waited until we were too far behind to bench BJ."

Its not like he had better options to go to before.  BJ has sucked something awful since putting on a Braves uniform, but even he was a more superior choice than trotting the even worse Jordan Schafer out there on a semi regular to everyday basis.  I'll be the first to say I'm not a Fredi fan, in fact I don't like most things about him, but he's just been playing the awful cards Wren dealt him.

RangeRover
RangeRover

@BobStrickland

Agreed.  

Now maybe people will began to comprehend and accept just how bad a manager he is.  

His teams have collapsed every single four of his August/September's, once blowing a 10 game lead with about a month to play.  Managing baseball is a pretty simp task, but the good ones are at their very best down the stretch and into the postseasons where strategic, calculated and at times courageous moves reward their teams...Fredi is the major's worst in these situations.

And lest one forget, he lost many games with his bizarre, illogical lineups from April - July as well...games that would come in handy about now!

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Bogey

You leave out a key word and then blame the AJC software?

The AJC software leaves a lot to be desired, but I don't believe it's responsible for your sloppy writing.

DavidinVirginia
DavidinVirginia

@RangeRover The pitcher will occasionally hit a moving bat with the pitch, yes. My point about BJ was that it's not just the strikeouts. Lots of fairly productive hitters strike out a lot, sometimes even a LOT. But he doesn't provide any other sort of value to make up for them. Well, unless you count coming up with new dance routines or whatever they are for the outfielders to do at the end of games on their way off the field. He and the others seem to spend a lot of time working on those; working on his hitting, not so much.