The Principality

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18th August 2015 - A First Half Team

Posted by theprincipality on August 18, 2015 at 7:15 PM

You know I've been looking at the NL East standings recently in absolute astonishment.  Following a promising 3 months, the Braves seem to have inexplicably given up again.  For the 3rd time in four seasons, they have fallen away during the second half. Albeit this year we were never really in contention, but the lack of results has been equally as baffling and in many ways more frustrating.

 

At the 81-game mark, the season's literal half way point, Atlanta was a respectable 40-41, a solitary game under. 500. As I write this, they are now 53-65, a full 12 games in the red and well out of contention for even a Wild Card spot. True, we have had our injuries, but at this point in a season, what team hasn't? It's as though we have become accustomed to losing.

 

Now, I'm not going to call for anyone's head, I'm just disappointed given the promising first half we had. We're building for a Championship so we need to be patient, yet seeing the continual headlines of loss take much of the joy out of games you win. Being able to play the role of spoiler is pretty dissatisfying. It's like the prize you get for turning up while the big boys play a different game. A winning streak of several games might spice things up, but the continual grind of winning one game every three just has me longing for next season and it's not even September yet.

 

Given the rebuilding going on around our young core of players, I have been equally as baffled by the trades made around the end of July non-waiver deadline. We made headlines as part of the big trade with LA and Miami, but in Alex Wood gave away what I saw to be a key piece in the team's future. And for what? Some untested 30 year old Cuban carrying an injury? I think we come off worst in that trade!

 

The other trade I couldn't understand was picking up Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn.  Swisher was a great player in pinstripes, but now offers little more than a great attitude (though maybe that will help stop the rot?). As for Bourn, don't we already have enough outfielders? At last count we had Markakis, Maybin, Gomes, Perez and now, of course, Swisher. What upside does Bourn really offer long-term? If the season is already gone, shouldn't one of the prospects be getting game time instead?

 

As I mentioned earlier, patience is key to a rebuilding process, but all I see is a team ready to discard anyone going through a slump, or growing pains. Cameron Maybin had a slump recently and despite a first half beyond expectations, all I read was about his declining trade value. Now he's hot again and we're glad we kept him. I think the team are terrified after the BJ Upton and Dan Uggla sagas. But they need to realise that players are human. I bet even Pete Rose had slumps every now and then. Upton and Uggla had bigger issues and became untradeable, but that doesn't mean every player over 25 will do the same. A bit of faith can go a long way.

 

The same is true of young players. Christian Bethancourt was once hailed as the catcher of the future. Now he's back in Triple-A undergoing an attitude adjustment. Mike Foltynewicz was just a few games into his rookie season, but a few bad outings and he was sent down as well. What might be mistaken for bad attitudes might well be just young players not knowing how to deal with the early roadbumps of a promising major league career. I believe that if we are going to rebuild, then these guys need time and encouragement, not fear of demotion after every bad outing.

 

But I suppose for the greatest part, much of this year has been about trial and error.  Williams Perez has been a pleasant surprise, as has Shelby Miller (wins notwithstanding). Cameron Maybin has stood out in an offense that doesn't strike much fear into the opposing rotations. Hopefully by the end of September, the shape of the roster for 2016 will be largely known and the offseason will be less about surprises and more about the optimism this young team will generate in a city used to perennial success.

 

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