When I was a kid the best a Braves fan could hope for was 5th place — 4th if you were the overly optimistic type. This year they might be lucky to finish 5th in a 5-team division.
It had to happen. With Liberty maintaining a tight budget and Frank Wren’s legacy of bad contracts and horrendous drafts to contend with, John Hart did the only thing he could have.
But did he get enough in return for Heyward, Upton and Gattis? The jury’s out, but I’m still bothered that the Nats received blue-chip SS prospect Trea Turner in exchange for 25-year-old rookie Steven Souza. Turner is more highly regarded than anyone the Braves acquired this winter. It’s early, and it’s Spring Training, but so far Folty and Banuelos have underwhelmed while returning prospect Jose Peraza appeared overmatched.
Which begs the question: Why hire John Hart, who was out of the game 10 years and had to be begged to return? The Braves appear stuck in the past, with almost all of the top decision-makers past retirement age. Meanwhile, young execs like A.J. Preller of the Padres created a buzz with a series of bold, unconventional moves.
And if you’re going to rebuild, go all in. The Nick Markakis contract remains baffling, and while the team is in desperate need of offense, pursuing Hector Olivera, a 29-year-old with a troubling injury history, over Yoan Moncada, a potential superstar 10 years his junior, makes little sense.
The on-field product will be bad enough, making the by-the-numbers stadium experience, seemingly programmed by Pat Boone, all the more difficult to stomach. Maybe we’ll get lucky and the Chick-fil-A cow will fall on top of the faux-bearded fake fiddler.
Regardless we’ll still have endure the “grand” franchise’s Schuerholz-ian arrogance. JS, for all the good he did as GM, has become a liability. Not only did he hire Wren but stood by as the team’s worst GM since John Mullen alienated much of the organization’s talent.
On top of it all we’ll have the team’s PR branch, aka the voices of the Braves, breathlessly parroting the party line. Nothing to see here, except for some gritty gamers giving it all they got. The other day Jim Powell noted how he’s never seen a team with so many open positions — “not a criticism,” he insisted. Of course not.
I haven’t entered a season with such low expectations since 1990, maybe even 1989. A.J. Pierzynski might as well be Jody Davis. You see Jonny Gomes and Eric Young Jr., I see Gary Roenicke and Oddibe McDowell.
At least then we had Skip and Pete and Ernie. And as bad as the losing was, were were used to it.
I’m afraid we’re going to have to get used to it again. Worse, I think I’ll probably be writing the same thing this time next year.
But hey, there’s a mixed-use development ahead for those willing to wait.
See you at Bennigan’s, sponsored by Comcast.