|Posted by theprincipality on April 22, 2016 at 9:05 AM|
It is probably fair to say that expectations in Atlanta this year are as low as they have been since 1991. By their own admission, the team won't be competitive this year, with the hope to return to winning ways in 2017 and put out something worth watching for their first season at SunTrust Park. Such has the rebuild been hyped, I probably know the names of more prospects now than in any of the 16 years I have been following the Braves. Granted, I'm excited about the future, but for the present, I'm setting myself for a very long year!
Perhaps the hardest part about the season so far has been how right everyone has been. Despite running the first game of the season close and losing in extra innings, the first couple of weeks just went from bad to worse as we fell to 0-9. We had set out on a losing footing and it is extremely unlikely we will ever see .500 again. Compounding the issue is the fact that six of the nine losses came against a division rival, the Washington Nationals. That is a third of the season's games against a rival and nothing to show for it.
As it happens, the Braves haven't won in Washington since 2014 when Aaron Harang was pitching. Regardless of how bad you are, or how much stock you put in rebuilding, you just cannot afford to let one team keep beating you like that. Part of the learning experience for the new Braves is learning how to win close games and win against tough opponents in their own back yard. So far there has been nothing to suggest that an entire losing road season in Washington can be turned around when you drop the first four games so meekly. It's embarrassing! Whilst the team may yet compete in 2017, they are not doing much to win over fans - many of whom have grown apathetic to their team's lack of progress.
My personal concern is that when all the tradeable pieces left the team, they seemed to be replaced by pitching, pitching, pitching. Pitching is all well and good but it is only half the game, and prior to the Shelby Miller trade, all we had were 'replacements' - the dreaded R in WAR (and they started out worse than a bunch of replacements). The Miller trade brought over Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte from Arizona, which was an absolute steal, but Inciarte is now hurt and Swanson won't be ready for a year at least.
What is left is a team of has-beens and utility players. Jeff Francoeur's return appeals to the hearts of the fans, but he is no long-term solution. Kelly Johnson is back (again) and ready to be traded in July. A.J. Pierzynski has stayed another year, but has no student to mentor now Christian Bethancourt has been let go. Hector Oliveira has let everybody down with his alleged assault on a woman in the team hotel and quite frankly the team looks more like a series of pieces than any sort of collegiate unit.
Yet at least there has been some fight shown since the debacle of losing all four games in DC. The Marlins look like a team with more problems than the Braves and the Dodgers series just completed has shown plenty of encouragement. The team lost the series 2-1, but both losses were tough-luck, extra inning affairs against a richer, more experienced and title-ready opponent. Bottom line though, we now sit last in the NL East at 4-11, with a long road back to parity.
I really hope the remainder of the season is less embarrassing than the first fortnight. First of all the team need to dump Oliveira. If John Rocker taught us anything it is that there is such a thing as a clubhouse cancer and that the actions of one player can reflect on the organisation as a whole. Of course, Olveira is innocent until proven otherwise, but with damning evidence against him, it seems unlikely he will escape charges.
So for me and all you other loyal Braves fans, we must endure as best we can these bleak times, for it makes it sweeter to celebrate success and we can say we were there for the bad as well. Braves for life!