Nationals are a more attractive mess than the Braves

Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals is pulled away by Ian Desmond (20) after an altercation with Jonathan Papelbon (not pictured) in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on Sunday. (Getty Images)

Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals is pulled away by Ian Desmond (20) after an altercation with Jonathan Papelbon (not pictured) in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on Sunday. (Getty Images)

Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals is pulled away by Ian Desmond (20) after an altercation with Jonathan Papelbon (not pictured) in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park on Sunday. (Getty Images)

Welcome to the final week of baseball’s regular season, which should correct your first question, “No. The season did not end two months ago.”

The Braves and Washington Nationals are a mess. Two franchises that not long ago were mortal enemies at the top of the National League East Division are now major league punching bags.

The Braves own the second-worst record in baseball, and at 62-94. So with six games left, they are mathematically alive for a 100-loss season (although it’s an unlikely promotion on this homestand). The Nationals, an overwhelming choice to win the East before the season, are 80-76 and nine games behind the New York Mets. They also punctuated their next-to-last home game of the season Sunday with a fight … between teammates … in the dugout … during a game … caught by television cameras. NATITUDE!

If you could wave a magic wand — and sorry but this exercise wasn’t made available before Frank Wren went shopping– and were given a wish of one team to be yours for the immediate future, which would it be? Some would say the Braves. They have a lower payroll, which theoretically means more flexibility and therefore the potential to acquire more talent in free agency and trades. Others would say the Nationals because they have more major league talent on the roster. The others include me.

An abbreviated breakdown:

• MANAGERS: It would be stunning if Washington kept Matt Williams. Granted, they have had injuries and clubhouse issues, but the team was an overwhelming choice to win the division and has woefully underachieved. That’s on Williams. The Braves’ Fredi Gonzalez obviously didn’t have much to work with this season and the trade of closer Craig Kimbrel on the eve of the season was like lighting a fuse that stretched from John Hart’s office to the bullpen. The team overachieved when it was 42-42, but it completely unraveled thereafter (going 20-52 since). They have gone from a sometimes-entertaining, high-energy, minimal-talent team to an unwatchable product. Despite the cast he has been forced to play, some of the failures have to fall on Gonzalez. So let’s call this a push.

• EVERY DAY LINEUPS: Bryce Harper isn’t the most popular guy in Atlanta but by all accounts he has matured. (Recommended reading on this subject by the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore on the Harper-Jonathan Papelbon dust-up is linked here) Harper is a 22-year-old superstar. He’s at least in the best-player-in-baseball argument and the Braves have nobody at that level – not Freddie Freeman, certainly not anybody else. They have a great defensive shortstop who can hit sometimes (Andrelton Simmons, .261), an unknown 30-year-old commodity in Hector Olivera (center to the most questionable of the Hart/John Coppolella deals) and a solid corner outfielder (Nick Markakis) who can’t hit home runs, which is somewhat amusing because the most common criticism of the traded Jason Heyward was he didn’t hit enough home runs. And they also have — well, what exactly? Some guys with “potential” and “catcher-of-the-future” Christian Bethancourt, who has a significantly shrinking fan base. The Nationals — who had a $162 million payroll on opening day compared to the Braves’ $97 million – will retain outfielder Jayson Werth and first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (both of whom have struggled with injuries most of the season). Other starters have been hurt and/or underachieved. They likely will lose center fielder Denard Span and shortstop Ian Desmond in free agency. But with Harper and a healthy Werth and Zimmerman, I’ll take the Nats.

• STARTING PITCHING: Washington has Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister. Zimmerman and Fister will be free agents. But if you’re starting point is Scherzer, Gonzalez and Strasburg (assuming good health), I’ll take that over Shelby Miller (who, yes, has pitched in bad luck but is better as a No. 2 or 3) Julio Teheran (who’s stock has fallen) and the raw talents/relatively unknown potential of Matt Wisler, Mike Foltynewicz and other prospects. If you chose to side with cost and potential upside, I understand leaning toward the Braves here. But all I know is the Braves, who have used 37 pitchers this season, have a staff ERA of 4.57 and that’s not all because of the bullpen: starters 40-66, 4.48 ERA.

• BULLPENS: Let’s not even go there.

• BOTTOM LINE: Both clubs have problems. But the Nationals can fix a lot with a manager who can take charge of the clubhouse and a few leaders on the roster. They have more proven major-league talent than the Braves. They’re the team I’d take going into the offseason right now.

Recent ramblings
AJC: Overreaction Monday: Georgia may be 4-0 but season starts now
Dawgnation: Georgia now can prepare for opponent that matters most: Alabama
Dawgnation: Short takes on Georgia’s win over Southern
AJC: Weekend Predictions: Lilly takes the lead and likes Falcons
MyAJC: Falcons’ fourth-quarter fizzles absent so far under Dan Quinn
AJC: Braves have been more adept at building off field than on it
AJC: Overreaction Monday: Are things as they seem with Falcons, Dogs, Jackets?
Dawgnation: Georgia chases away Spurrier demons with dominating performance
Dawgnation: Short takes: Lambert says, ‘I just had to go through a rough patch’
Dawgnation: Georgia can’t blow game, Tech can’t blow chance
AJC: Weekend Predictions: Tech over Irish, Georgia over South Carolina (but not by 17)
Dawgnation: Tech has something Georgia would like — comfort at quarterback position
MyAJC: An impressive opening by Dan Quinn’s new Falcons
AJC: Short takes: Gruden praises Falcons’ defense after win
Dawgnation: Georgia looks like a shaky 2-0 with its passing game
Dawgnation: Short takes: Another Georgia win but QB issues continue
AJC: Weekend Predictions: I can’t block this Falcons’ upset from my brain
AJC: Poll: I say 9 wins for Falcons, national media mixed, what say you?
MyAJC: Falcons’ late roster scramble not a good sign
AJC: Fredi Gonzalez needs to make more of his losing hand
Dawgnation: Lambert good but didn’t do enough to cement starting job
Dawgnation: Lambert, lightning and the joy of Keith Marshall
MyAJC: Kennesaw State’s little startup off to a dazzling start
AJC: Weekend Predictions: Dogs, Jackets roll, Spurrier escapes, Petrino goes down
AJC: Falcons won Julio Jones trade but would like to forget 2012 draft
Dawgnation: Greyson Lambert’s big test won’t come in opener, it will be later
AJC: Hello, football: Thoughts on UGA, Tech, Kennesaw, both GSUs
Dawgnation: It’s Lambert over Ramsey for now, but assume nothing for future at Georgia
AJC: Falcons were never going to let Julio Jones get away

 

 

Reader Comments 0

74 comments
Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Did I miss something ,but aren't the nationals one of the top 5 teams in payroll ,and they missed the playoffs just like the Braves. And they have won what exactly , a NL East title in 2014 quite an impressive accomplishment for Rizzo and the Nats ownership. Rizzo torpedoed his team this year by bringing in Papelbon rather than shoring up the middle relief and bench. Williams was inexperienced as a manager and let the personalities in the club house over shadow him. but still most of the criticism should go to Rizzo for mishandling the payroll and roster.

shitlipps
shitlipps

THE NATIONALS FIRED THEIR MANAGER WHY DON'T THE SCUM BIG WHEELS FIRE PENIS HEAD GONZALEZ. HE IS ONE WORTHLESS PIECE OF DOG CRAP. OH, I FORGOT THE BEST MANAGER IN BASEBALL.

58Supersports
58Supersports

@shitlipps  agree he should be fired for last 4 year teams flop...but no need to call him names.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

If the Braves had the Nats ownership I just might believe in the master plan


The Nats need to get healthy and maybe go into a different direction than Matt Williams


I do not think Fredi has done a bad job with what he has had to work with -- no one could have done much better with this substandard talent, a terrible pen and a rotation that is suspect. 


Of the pitching prospects -- maybe Wisler can be a mid rotation guy the rest of it highly suspect



58Supersports
58Supersports

@VeryDisgusted  how do you know no one could have done better... I believe almost anyone could have done better. I won't go into details but if you watched almost every game since FG been here you would know. FG is here for one reason only and that's he is a Bobby Cox's man. hand picked and yes man.. If Braves really wanted to win they would do like Nationals and fire FG.

Infinite Hope
Infinite Hope

The Nats just proved again that throwing big money at the problem is not a solution.  They look good on paper, but they will be sitting next to the Braves on the sofa in a few days.

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@Hopeless in ATL 


There is truth to that -- but at least they will try and put some $$$$$$ into the team


They are far more relevant than the Braves -- and the Braves are stuck on what would have been a great payroll 15 yrs ago


And the Olivera trade -- that smells more and more like the Len Barker deal 32 yrs ago


If Olivera were 26 or 27 it might make sense, he has been either injured or in limbo for 2 yrs now going into his age 31 season next yr


Good luck with that

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Yeah, I see the Nats issues as correctable, and they have money. They won't have the advantage of #1 draft choices moving forward, but they need rebounds and plug-in pieces, not a team.


I could never throw in with a management group that intentionally tanked a season and thumbed their noses at fans (and legitimate MLB players stuck on the roster) like the Braves did this year. They should ALL be fired and banned from baseball for unsportsmanlike conduct.


Looking at the photos of Braves let go and traded away, who cares what BJ and Uggla and Francouer do, really? Good for them. $17 million for a fourth outfielder hitting .243 after he totally tanked two seasons consecutively and triggered this mess - good for him, just please stay off the Braves roster. Medlen, Wood, and Gattis - definitely rooting for them to tear it up in the post-season. Those were some awful GM mistakes, perhaps Wood less so if Olivera provides a couple of years of solid production.

reckingball
reckingball

It fell apart for the Nots this season, and could next year, they have maybe a couple more years before it all goes down the tubes, just the way it did for the Phillies.

The Braves are not headed into a decades-long spell of total irrelevance. 

FreeAgentFan
FreeAgentFan

@reckingball 


Oh I get it -- anyone who is not a Hart/Coppy and Liberty Media kisser is a total complete moron. 



ShovelPlease
ShovelPlease

No argument here.  The Nationals are eons ahead of the Braves and will be for the next few seasons, at least.  I'm more concerned that the Braves are heading into a Pittsburgh Pirate (circa 1993-2010) or KC Royals (1990-2012) decades-long spell of total irrelevance.  

Lobosolo
Lobosolo

Please... take the Nats and GO WITH THEM... TO WASHINGTON.... All of your bad writing falls on YOU, and whoever it is that keeps your columns running...

reckingball
reckingball

Schultz, .....you like the Nots so much, why not move to D.C.

afx
afx

@reckingball ...you like the Braves so much, why not move to mad house. now I like your opinion why LM with payroll 97 mil. better than Natc. owner Lerner 162 mil. in payroll and up. and I don't care what place you going to send me. last one looks like you hate Jeff, is it personal?  go Braves  

reckingball
reckingball

@afx WTF?......Do YOU, yourself, even know what you were trying to communicate? Try again tomorrow, when you come down off of whatever it is, that you are flying on.

afx
afx

@reckingball @afx this confirmation that you naked idiot with no common sense, but only hate to particular persons, so go set doctor appoint ASAP maybe it fixable be to morons like you to understand that indeed Natc. much better than our team.

reckingball
reckingball

@afx

Well, what is the name of your doctor, because I don't want to use him. Looks like he is ineffective.

That is all.

patriotdog
patriotdog

Schultzie, your Thursday predictions are entertaining, well thought out and clever. Really enjoyable. Leave the baseball articles to DOB though, ok?

58Supersports
58Supersports

@patriotdog  disagree on baseball reporting, we need more opinions than just one. DOB's feelings get hurt if you disagree with him and you get deleted. DOB's opinion is no better than other insiders.

JeffCriswell
JeffCriswell

Fire Gonzalez and do it now. The team has fallen apart many times under his watch. He's in over his head during the rebuild. Braves need only look down the bench - to Roger McDowell, for their next manager. 

58Supersports
58Supersports

Braves have most problems.... period.

Fredi is a big one.

John Ellis
John Ellis

Thanks for the update there Capt Obvious! I will disagree that while Harper is good, falls fall short of a superstar or a role model. Nothing but a talented punk who will never appreciate the game, as he should. The rest is just dribble. Williams is learning and will get better, but the "talent" on that team has always been flukey(?) at best. Another stellar joke of writing there sir!

Braves1945
Braves1945

Anybody who would make this comparison needs a vacation, a very long one. Are you kidding?  Never mind the two teams as a whole, I would gladly exchange managers.

DumbandDumber
DumbandDumber

Gosh, where to start....manager is one of the most overrated positions in sports as the game is 90%+ the hitter and the pitcher (not the team game of football, basketball, soccer, or even doubles tennis, LOL).


And the Braves payroll is $97 million? That is thievery and stupidity (on the part of management and on the part of anyone who pays to support that type of robbery). Newsflash, guys would play for a fraction of what they make (what else would they do with their lives?), pay them as such and make the game an entertainment worth paying for vs. the total ripoff it is now.

Polskidawg
Polskidawg

HARPER: "Where's my ring?"


PAPELBUM: "Why don't you look up your arse?"


Jeff, that team is a HUGE mess, and not because of lack of talent. The issue is that most of the guys with talent are the problem, both in terms of attitude and/or performance.


It starts at the top and the beginning of the D.C. franchise, when ownership hired Stan Kasten, who then hired Mike Rizzo – two of the most "humble" men in the league.

SouthGeorgiaStrong
SouthGeorgiaStrong

Washington is a MESS and I AM LOVING IT.  Braves have a step on them with their decision to rebuild now. HMMMMM let me think is there another team that went through this....oh yea The Philly's

SunDropMan
SunDropMan

Still laughing about what I saw on ESPN/MLB 10 mins. ago.  On their schedule page for today's games it says there are 1742 tickets left for tonight's game.  Now that's hilarious!  They must have moved the game to Murphy Candler Little League Park so it would look full.  Still say they should give away free T-shirts to those paying good money to attend a Braves game, that say on the back,  'HERE SITS A FOOL' !

BTC
BTC

@FarTrain I believe that number just represents how many tickets people have offered up for re-sale. They'll be lucky to have 1742 people in the stands tonight, given the weather and import of the match up.

GWJ0525
GWJ0525

The only problem with the Nats is that Harper is such a poison pill. What do you do with your best player that creates turmoil the way he does. They need a manager that has the right personality to keep him under control and from disrupting the team. The Braves on the other hand are a train wreck.

rundmc
rundmc

@GWJ0525 I might have agreed before this season, but Harper looks like he's turned a corner this year. Yes, he sporadically looks like he's lagging, but not like he once did. He actually did run out the hit in question though he was slow out of the box. And Harper didn't put his hands on anyone. Papelbon, who has turned on several teams, is doing the same thing again, now lunging at his team stars not a few weeks new to the clubhouse. 

58Supersports
58Supersports

@rundmc @GWJ0525  Harper said come on and Popi did just that.... and the majority of players were on Popi's side . Management has no balls and let's Harp get away with the crap. That's another reason Williams will be gone. To bad we can't get Fredi out of here.

Hammerman
Hammerman

It's a joke to even try to compare rosters.Only Freeman,Miller,and Simmons would see playing time on the Nationals.Like him or not,Harper is better than anything the Braves have ever had,except Aaron.The Braves offer nothing moving forward.

rundmc
rundmc

@Hammerman Nothing? Braves had Murphy, who won 2 MVPs, and yet you overlook him in favor of some 22-year old Harper who just learned to finally stop running into walls? C'mon man. Harper has a unlimited potential, but he lacks consistency if nothing else because of how unabashed he plays the game (like it or not). Something else he doesn't have that Chipper Jones did have: consistency. Let's put Harper in the same sentence as Henry Aaron when he does what he's doing now for the next 5-10 years.


Braves might not have the high-ceiling of a once-in-a-generation type of player like Harper, but they also didn't have to be the worst team in MLB for years to get said players. We have a bunch of players that could be our next stars in Albies, Allard, Riley, Touki Toussaint, Tyrell Jenkins, Mallex Smith, etc.

Hammerman
Hammerman

Dale Murphy was my all time favorite Brave.Harper at 22 is far superior to Murph and Chipper.

Hammerman
Hammerman

Not Chippers body of work.Chipper at 22,sorry not even close.

JD101
JD101

@Hammerman I'll take Chipper's best 3 years over Harper - and his next 2.  Probably get a lot of takers for each.  So it's at least a discussion.

Calel
Calel

I agree, Chipper at 22 wasn't much. Chipper didn't become Chipper until 1999 and Don Baylor's influence.

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

@JohnD101 @Hammerman Chipper didn't play when he was 22 recuperating from knee surgery. That was the strike season of 94. He played 140 games in 95 won it all.

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

@Calel Batted roughly .305 from 96 to 99 and avg 107rbi...Baylor benefited more.

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

@JohnD101 @Hammerman Its really unfair to compare Harper or for that matter anyone to arguably the greatest switch hitter in MLB history. First Ballot LOCK.

ShovelPlease
ShovelPlease

@Calel Some would say Chipper didn't become Chipper until 1999 and some injected juice, or was it the cream.  

cshudson24
cshudson24

@Hammerman Harper is NOT far superior to Chipper. He has a long way to go before he could even carry Chipper's jock strap.

JD101
JD101

@Hammerman When Harper is a first-ballot HOF player - let's talk.   Until then, let's pump the brakes on the Harper bandwagon.  Maddux, Glavine, Larry Wayne Jones and Aaron - all players wining a straight-up comparison discussion.  The Nats - all about potential, every year.  They are like the Lions in the NFL.  Lot's of talent - yet never put it together to actually win anything.