The Braves are back home after an eight-game road trip. There will be no parade today.
They lost all eight games — swept in consecutive series in Los Angeles, San Diego and Seattle. It’s the first time something like that has happened since the 1949 Boston Braves went 0-8 on a trip. That’s so long ago that, as historian David O’Brien noted, Warren Spahn was in the starting rotation.
More miserable numbers: The Braves scored only 18 runs in the eight games (three of which went extra innings) for an average of 2.25 runs per game. They also are 6-13 since the All-Star break, 9-18 in the last 27 and 41-49 since beginning the season 17-7, when all in the world seemed right.
When they left town, closing a mediocre (6-5) homestand with a 2-0 win over the Padres, they were one-half game behind Washington in the National League East and percentage points ahead in a wild-card spot. Today, they are four games behind the first-place Nationals and three games behind San Francisco and St. Louis for one of the two wild card spots.
Welcome home? They open an 11-game homestand Friday night that will see them play three first-place teams: Washington, Los Angeles, Oakland.
Things are going the wrong way and the Braves have done nothing to lead you to believe they’re going to turn around. So here’s today’s question: Whom do you blame the most for this?
Hey! Don’t all shout at once!
Here are the choices: 1) Players; 2) manager Fredi Gonzalez; 3) General manager Frank Wren. In the poll, I actually have six voting options so you can rank the three to your liking (or disliking). I’m not including owner Liberty Media because, as unpopular as the company is, it allowed the Braves to exceed their self-imposed budget by signing free agent starting pitcher Ervin Santana to a $14.1 million contract.
Here are a few thoughts on the team’s three principles to consider before you vote.
• PLAYERS: They get paid. A lot. They’ve underperformed. Significantly. The team ranks 13th out of 15 in the National League in runs scored, ninth in batting average and on-base percentage, 12th in slugging percentage. They’re hitting .246 with runners in scoring position and .234 since the All-Star break. B.J. Upton: grease fire. Dan Uggla: gone. Jason Heyward: nowhere close to expectations. Almost everybody, save Evan Gattis, is underperforming.
• FREDI GONZALEZ: It’s his job to put players in the best position to succeed. It’s his job to make in-game moves to win games. It’s his job to cajole, kick butt and/or do anything to motivate when necessary, even though it shouldn’t be necessary for players who are paid millions. When the Braves have struggled offensively, is there more the manager could have done to play small ball? Are there starting lineup options or batting order options he hasn’t explored? Has he been too hands off in dealing with some of his star players?
• FRANK WREN: A general manager’s job isn’t mere talent acquisition. It’s roster building. There has to be a plan. Baseball teams play long seasons and players all but live with each other six months out of the year. Clubhouse chemistry is of the utmost importance. So is veteran leadership. The Braves clearly lack both. Some of that was expected with the losses of players like Tim Hudson, Brian McCann, Chipper Jones, David Ross and Martin Prado. But Wren did a poor job projecting how the 25 players on this roster would fit together and, with so many big contracts given out, it became difficult to make moves.
Here’s the poll
And now, the cyber floor is yours.
•Some recent ramblings (free links)
— Blog: Roddy White lost Twitter ‘bet’ and paid off in a big way — MyAJC: Paul George’s injury shows risk of NBA players in tournaments — MyAJC: Paul Johnson needs to impress his new boss at Georgia Tech — Blog: Dan Uggla rejects demotion and is out of a job again — MyAJC: Pruitt winning over Georgia in ways Grantham didn’t — MyAJC: We’ll find out how right or wrong Frank Wren is — Blog: It’s trade deadline day…and it’s quiet here — MyAJC: Braves hamstrung by finances at trade deadline — Blog: Urban Meyer gets it wrong on Tim Tebow — MyAJC: Braves’ best postseason hope is starting pitching — MyAJC: Steven Jackson: ‘I kind of believed my own hype’ — Blog: Poll: Falcons open camp, what’s your playoff pick? — MyAJC: Falcons open with more questions than buzz — MyAJC: Georgia still recruiting too many of wrong kids