I know that this is a running and fitness blog catered to a niche audience, but I have been reading article after article forever condemning the Atlanta Braves and vilifying anyone associated with their front office. This is infuriating to me not only as a Braves fan, but also as a person capable of rational thought. Today was the worst occurrence of such garbage pieces, and I decided to write a rather lengthy retort to this garbage article. Rather than constantly rewriting the ideas contained in the post over and over in comment sections, I thought I would just create a post in which I could use as a reference point. So if you hate baseball or the Atlanta Braves, and you do not want to read about such things, this is your disclaimer to scroll to the next entry or blog, no questions asked. You have been warned, and I will talk to you upon the return to the normal blog category.
If you are still reading, then you must be curious what I have to say about the 2016 Atlanta Braves, or you are just here to tell me how stupid I am. Both reasons are fair enough.
What was the alternative with the roster? This team is terrible this year, but they always were going to be terrible, just with a different cast of characters. Jason Heyward and Justin Upton were always leaving in free agency. Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, and Mike Minor’s pitching arms failed them. Andrleton Simmons while being the premier defensive shortstop in the game, cannot hit. The team has a limited payroll and until last year, they had arguably the worst farm system in all of baseball. No funds and no prospects does not equate into building a winning baseball team. Yes, the Braves could have gone all in for the 2015 season, but what would that have realistically netted? A division title? Maybe. A playoff win? Unlikely. The bullpen would still have been mediocre with Craig Kimbrel, the offense would have been feast or famine, and the starting rotation would not have been good enough to win. Remember, the 2014 and 2015 Braves scored the same amount of runs despite drastically different lineups. The pitching was the difference, and this was even with all star Shelby Miller. The Braves have not won a playoff series since 2001! 2001! Fredi Gonzalez only won 1 playoff game in his entire tenure as the manager and had two awful collapses with “loaded” teams in 2011 and 2014, and the another collapse with the depleted team last season, which is a little more understandable. And let us not forget Kimbrel standing in the bullpen, ready to enter the game as David Carpenter coughed up to lead on a Juan Uribe homerun. Let’s go back to 2014 when John Hart and John Coppolella started wheeling and dealing, and negate all of their trades, whether they have been deemed a success or failure. What does the current roster and farm system look like in this scenario? World Series favorite? A 100+ win team? Not in the slightest. Your 2016 Atlanta Braves would be the following: C – Gattis/Bethancourt, 1B – Freeman, 2B – Peraza/LaStella, SS – Simmons, 3B – C. Johnson, LF – Terdoslavich/K. Johnson, CF – Melvin Upton, Jr., RF – Francouer/Cunningham. SP – Teheran, Wood, Norris, Perez, Weber. RP – Kimbrel, Avillan, 5 warm bodies. Top Nine Prospects according to MLB Pipeline (current, actual team rank in parentheses) 1. Albies (3), 2. Sims (12), 3. Davidson (15), 4. Acuna (23), 5. Hursh (24), 6. Carmargo (25), 7. Povse (26), 8. Cabrera (28), 9. Parsons (29). I would have gone to ten or fifteen, but MLB Pipeline does not rate out far enough for me to include that many prospects due to all of the trades for prospects over the past two seasons creating an influx of minor league talent. Anyone drafted last year cannot be counted due to the draft picks acquired via trade and the different approach to building this team would likely skew the draft philosophy. Maybe the team still drafts Kolby Allard or maybe the team drafts the best available college guy with a hope to plug him in this season or next for the departing free agents. We do not know, and therefore must continue this exercise as such. This team would have be awful for years to come, not just the two to three years of awfulness the Braves are currently projected for. Do not forget, you cannot count the failures of 2014 because that was a different general manager and this super team that everyone is so pissed about breaking up was still intact. And all for, at best, what, twenty more wins in 2015? Five more wins in 2016? This team was destined to be terrible this year, but at least now there is some hope for the future, and next a decade of deplorable baseball like the 1980’s Atlanta Braves.
Now onto Turner Field. It is not like the Braves are moving to Chattanooga, TN. They are moving to a suburb of Atlanta. Yes, they are moving because they could not fleece the city of Atlanta taxpayers so they decided to stick it to the taxpayers in Cobb County, but all this nostalgia about Turner Field is baffling. The stadium is wildly generic, the Braves have a losing post season record there, it was built for the Olympics, not the team, is the epitome of mediocre Braves baseball, the Braves have very little say or profits from the operation of he stadium, and it is literally a death trap with three fan deaths since 2008. Traffic to SunTrust Park will be awful, granted, but so is the traffic to Turner Field, it is Atlanta after all. There have been years of comedic material written about the traffic in Atlanta. On opening day, it took my family over one hour to travel less than three miles from our hotel to the ballpark. Three miles! I ran a 5K with a broken foot faster than that! The new ballpark might not solve any of these issues, and if that pisses you off great, because it should, especially since the need for a new park was not eminent. But being mad because the park is in a suburb and there will be traffic issues is woefully idiotic and a bit disingenuous. If you are going to be mad, be mad for the right reasons!
The biggest contributing factor to losing and infuriating fans are all of the hot take pieces being written like this one on The Hard Ball Times and what routinely runs in the AJC. The current Braves are an easy target for ridicule because they are not good at baseball and fanning the flames of hatred from the lowest common denominator is easier than being objective and honest about the rebuild. The Simmons and Alex Wood trades are abysmal thus far, and deserve some vitriol spewed their way, especially the Wood trade. But remember, if Sean Newcomb lives up to his potential, he is the ace that Braves have needed since the early 2000’s. If he does not, then the Braves traded the next Ozzie Smith for the worst shortstop in the game, even if this gross decline (and it has been certifiably disgusting) in Erick Aybar’s production could not have been fully predicted. The mid-2000’s in Atlanta deserve their fair amount of the blame for the team’s current plight. The pursuit of fourteen consecutive division titles and then one last hurrah for the old guard in 2007 was short-sighted, and robbed the team of some very good prospects for rental players on teams that were not good enough to win the World Series, with or without the additions. Was one excellent season of J.D. Drew worth the entire career of Adam Wainwright? One year of Mark Teixeira, with 6+ WAR accumulated for the Braves, worth five prospects that ultimately put Texas where Atlanta wanted to be twice, the World Series? These Braves teams were not merely a piece away, but the trades were done as if they were. A little more prudence then would be beneficial now. I, for one, am happy that the Braves are no longer putting bandaids on bullet wounds, and hopefully the team can maintain a prolonged success once again. due to this reinvigorated focus on the draft, scouting, analytics, and building a team from within.
In the end, none of these prospects may work out (highly unlikely), and the entire endeavor was a waste of time, but the chances of enough of these prospects to blossom in MLB are high, and the wins will certainly follow as well. So continue to fight through this abysmal season and think about the brighter days that are to come. And remember, as a Braves fan you have been spoiled since 1991 with winning baseball. The Pittsburgh Pirates had twenty consecutive losing seasons during this time period and the Kansas City Royals suffered greatly while building their World Series roster.
I am sure that my stance will not be well received here, but these denunciations have already grown beyond tiresome, and it is still only May, so it is at least cathartic for me to say my part. And honestly, I could have written another 5,000 words about this subject.