Where have you been Rowland, less than 10 people have asked since we departed the scene nearly three years ago. CD has been busy raising a family, though he has some more time on his hands now that he’s been banned from attending his son’s Little League games. He was repeatedly berating the coach for his ignorance of defensive shifts. Meanwhile, I’ve been deep in the trenches, continuing the tireless work that goes into exposing rock’s foremost Satanic ambassador, Jeff Lynne.
There just wasn’t much left for us to say about The Mallpark’s chief tenant. How many time can you write, “What Chip said.” (He’s right, you know. Good things can happen when you put the ball into play. Who doesn’t enjoy a double play?)
But the Bravos’ season-long malaise has us thinking back to the magical summer of 2008, when the Office was still but a toddler in the blogosphere. We were wrong about a lot of things back then, ranting against WAR and BABIP as if we were Chip’s wingmen.
Those ’08 Braves were supposed to be good. Peter Gammons said they were the best NL team he saw that spring. Tom Glavine returned to the fold to fill out the rotation along with fellow fortysomething John Smoltz, erstwhile ace Tim Hudson, a rehabbing Mike Hampton and promising righty Charlie Morton. Lefty Mike Gonzalez was acquired from the Pirates to team with Rafael Soriano for what looked to be a formidable bullpen duo.
Andruw, who struggled mightily in ’07, signed with the Dodgers. Mark Kotsay, obtained from the A’s, would not fill his shoes, but the offense appeared to be a team strength. Mark Teixeira, acquired the previous summer from Texas, and Chipper were supported by up-and-comers Brian McCann, Kelly Johnson, Yunel Escobar and Jeff Francoeur, who impressed us baseball Luddites with a .293-19-105 line the year before.
When new GM Frank Wren announced the signing of Corky Miller, Braves fans couldn’t help but think their team was poised for a championship.
But things didn’t go as planned. Glavine, 42, battled injuries and old age and eventually retired after 13 starts. In June, Smoltzie, 41, underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. His career would resume, but not with the Braves.
The outfield was among the league’s lease productive. Francoeur was abysmal, finishing with a lower OPS than Gregor Blanco.
On June 17, 13 years ago to the day, the Braves stood right about where they are now: in third place, two games under .500 and six-and-a-half behind the division leader. They would end he month in the throes of a six-game losing streak. Another six-game losing streak would follow, along with two five-game skids and one of the 10 worst losses in team history. When it was over, they were a 72-win team that looked every bit the part.
Let’s not forget the trade for Casey Kotchman. Was Wren even trying?
It won’t get that bleak for these Braves.
But you won’t be seeing meaningful October baseball at The Mallpark. There’s just too many holes. Hopefully AA doesn’t ape JS and make a desperate blockbuster, like the one that brought Tex to Atlanta in July 2007.
Better that Anthopolous keep all eyes on 2022 and the team’s window to compete. Charlie Morton, if he pitches anywhere close to the way he did Thursday, could bring a nice return (perhaps Vidal Brujan from the Rays?) See what you can get for Will Smith. And don’t be afraid to deal prospects like Drew Waters for an affordable veteran — Brian Reynolds and Mitch Haniger are two that come to mind.
The Braves should have plenty of money to spend. Ender, Smyly, Morton and Chris Martin gives the Braves Re-sign Freddie. Release Marcel. Revamp the ‘pen. Trade for a frontline starter, ideally one not pushing 40. (AA’s track record with free agent pitchers is not great, though a one-year deal for Noah Syndegaard makes some sense. So would Chris Taylor and Mark Canha).
Until then, good things can still happen. Maybe the Braves finally move Touki to the bullpen where I think he’d thrive. I don’t know what to do about Kyle Wright or Bryse Wilson. Wright should’ve been traded two yeas ago, when he still had some value. On the plus side, Shea Langliers’ development at the plate will soon force a tough positional showdown. If he maintains his current pace and his 25 homers or so, he’s a safe bet to be next year’s Opening Day catcher.
And while we’re dreaming, maybe Chip will pull a Thom Brennaman and save us from another summer of his trademark old school posturing and overbearing pleasantness.
And maybe we’ll not wait another three years until our next post.