The Atlanta Braves are a victim to their own success. After 14 years of winning pennants in the West and East Divisions of Baseball, they no longer have the desire or professionalism to achieve another one. The streak stopped last year and it appears a new streak has begun with their lack of effort for the 2007 season. It’s really disheartening to be a Braves fan right now and seeing the team collapse before your very eyes.
The man in charge is Bobby Cox and his favortism to players with higher contracts on the field is lending way to the more talented players the Braves have forced to ride the pine. You can’t deny the numbers that Willie Harris and Matt Diaz has put up in the outfield this year. One of these guys is forced to sit while Andruw Jones is barely making contact at the plate and appears to be blaming the poor slump on a soar elbow. If he’s hurt he should sit; he should be sitting just for the simple fact he’s no where near the production of what Willie Harris and Matt Diaz is giving you.
It was an interesting coaching strategy to see how the Braves beat the Giants in the first game of their current series. First of all, you had Bob Wickman who is clearly the 5th best relief pitcher on the team, and Cox has failed to move him out of the closer’s role. He has struggled in the closer role and having 4 pitchers on the staff that is clearly better than him. Now a couple of these pitchers are out with injuries. Mike Gonzalez and Octavio Dotel are out due to injuries, but neither guy was given the shot at the closer’s role. Then you have the favorite in Rafael Soriano who has been amazing. He’s given up some long balls, but I would rather lose that way then walking guys like Wickman has done. Tyler Yates is a hard thrower with better stuff than Wickman. However, Wickman remains the closer and he blew another save on Tuesday against the Giants.
After tying the game in the top of the 9th inning, the Braves was able to get their lead off man on in the bottom of the 9th inning. They had Kelly Johnson to bunt the runner over, but with a great hustling effort he beat out the play and was safe at 1st base. Now you have a player at 2nd base (which is the winning run) and you just have to make sure he gets to 3rd base. Chipper Jones comes to the plate with the hitting privelage? This seem to be a easy call for him to bunt the runner to third and stay out of the double play. Instead Cox let’s him swing away, because he shows favortism to his stars and winning this game is 2nd priority. Now even with the hit privelage you still have to hit the ball to the right side of the field. Well not only does Chipper swing, but he hits the ball to left field. It was a huge mistake and the Braves could have been in a double play or Chipper could have flew out and failed to move the runner to third. Now Chipper did come through with a hit, but it was a stupid way to play that situation and it’s things like that has kept the Braves from winning World Series.
It’s been the story all year as we have players at 2nd base with no outs and our guys continue to hit the ball to left field. Cox allows these players to get away with it and it’s a good reason to know why the Braves are not leaders in the Eastern Division. You must hit the ball to right field with a runner on 2nd base and no outs. It’s a must! Andruw has been in the lineup long enough, time to sit him before it’s too late!
To add salt to the wound, the Braves team got home at 3 or 4 AM Monday morning where 3 of their star players (Smoltz, Hudson, Francouer) play in a charity golf tournament. Why would you schedule any charitable even during baseball season? Why would you do this with 6 weeks left to go in a close pennant race? Why was Smoltz out there when he had to pitch on Tuesday? It’s because the Braves are not hungry to win this pennant and it’s why Smoltz struggled in the early part of that game. It’s really sad to see these spoiled millionaires not have the heart to give it their all.
For some reason tonight, Tim Hudson took off from first base on a deep fly ball to right field with 2 outs and ran a jogging pace watching the ball to see if the ball went over the outfielder’s head. It did go over his head, but Hudson only managed to get to 3rd base where that run never did score. The announcers said it was a wise decision, no need for him to run on a hot night and have a collision at the plate, and besides they are winning 2 to 0. It turned out that lead got wiped away when Barry Bonds hit his 759th career homerun and tied the score up late. Braves did manage to score more later, but Hudson’s play could have made the difference. You have to give it your all! Pitchers and position players and this just isn’t happening. It will do the Braves in and they will not be playing baseball in October if we get to get treated with Andruw’s whiff on the ball at every at-bat.