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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I hear Phil Niekro's not doing anything

I haven't dissected or analyzed the Braves' performance this year up until now. This has been a deliberate choice on my part for two reasons. First of all, I don't believe you can tell what kind of club you have until at least the first month of the season is past and you still don't really have a handle on things until June. The onther reason is that it's very difficult to analyze bi-polar schizophrenics with multiple personalities. You need like PHDs and tweed coats and a beard and a pipe and three books published about Freud or at least an office with a couch somewhere.

The pitching staff resembles Dresden, circa 1945. John Smoltz has gone from the staff ace to the closer maybe. We hope and pray to Jesus he's now the closer. Mike Hampton needs to go away. If Hampton can't go out on the mound and pitch to just one stinking batter so he can get a 2008 stat line for posterity without having his arm fall off, both ankles break and his entire lymphatic system leap out of his body and scuttle away like a crab he needs to be put down out of mercy. The dude we sacrificed the #18 overall pick in this year's draft for (that broken down stubborn old fool up above) has exactly zero wins. The top four closers on the depth chart are on the DL, leaving the job to Manny Acosta. Jeff Bennett is probably the staff MVP just for being able to get thrown into a game at a moment's notice whenever disaster strikes.

The offense is actually not that bad. Chipper's trying to get elected to the Hall of Fame all in one year. Yunel and McCann are doing fine. Kotsay's hitting a hell of a lot better than Andruw is right now. Frenchy and Tex are slumping relative to their potential, but they're not hitting badly by any stretch. The only player getting regular at bats who's not really producing is Matt Diaz who just needs to quit swinging at everything and striking out. So the offense looks all right, until you get down to clutch hitting. How in the hell do you go 1-11 in one run games? You don't drive in runs when you really need them, that's how. This has been a common theme among Braves team the past few years, I've just never seen it quite as bad as this. When you tend to sit back and wait for the three-run homer, you're going to have a lot of games were the tying run gets stranded at third while your big guns strike out or get jammed inside and hit into a double play.

The really crazy thing about it is even with the pitching staff melting down and the offense wasting many of their good outings, the team is still playing .500 ball! They are 19-19 and only three and a half back of the first place Marlins. Let me repeat: the freakin' MARLINS whose entire payroll is less than the salary of Alex Rodriguez's accountant are in first place. That means that as bad off as the Braves are, the Mets and Phillies once again haven't taken advantage of it and run away with the division yet. So while they are certainly a mess right now, they're definitely not out of it and they have a good enough team to be in first as their Pythagorean Win-Loss record of 23-15 shows. Someone just has Greg Brady's Hawaiian tiki idol hanging in their locker or something.

While I'm not panicking yet, about half of Atlanta is, which means the trade rumors are heating up. You knew this one would pop up sooner or later though. Yep, let's bring back Maddux and reunite the Hall-bound trio for one last hurrah. And lets go out and get Steve Avery while we're at it. Charlie Liebrandt and Denny Neagle are certainly available. Closer worries? No problem! Go out and get Alejandro Pena, Mark Wohlers and John Rocker and have a closer by committee. Hell, Rocker will work for the minimum and help out as a groundskeeper to boot. The absolute stupidest thing about this trade is it actually makes sense.

The Braves are in absolute win now mode with Smoltz and Glavine getting courted by AARP, Chipper about to start declining and lets face it Teixeira is leaving at the end of the year. Liberty Media is just as likely to lower the payroll by $20 million as they are to raise it, and Tex is going to get several banks (maybe even one or two that are actually solvent!) thrown at him by the New York clubs. So the Bravos have one last run in them and their most desperate need right now is someone who can chew up innings without embarrassing himself. Meanwhile the Padres are in free fall and might want to shop some of their elderly statesman. They just chucked Jim Edmonds out on his ear, so it's a possibility at least. All rumors, especially ones as obvious as this, should be taken with very large grains of salt but it's at least something to distract from the daily grind this early in the season. I'm normally against the thought shipping off prospects for old and busted pitchers, but in this case I'll have to make an exception. My grandmother who watches every game religiously is a Maddux fanatic and would be dancing on top of the TV if this happened. That would certainly make the rest of the season interesting, that's for sure.

Update: I knew that if I whined about Tommy Traitor getting no wins in this post the Baseball Gods would give him a victory to make me look stupid. Reverse psycolology...


Andy said...

The Braves have outscored their opponents by a wide margin and have just been very unlucky so far. The luck will even out as the season goes on. They'll win 92 to 94 games this year and win their division. Mark it down.

shoeboxlegends said...

Nice Slaughterhouse-Five reference, Vonnegut was awesome.