For Braves, this year becomes next year: Albies and Sims in, Phillips out

Braves rookie infielder Ozzie Albies was recalled from Triple A Gwinnett and made his major league debut Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

There’s a story in Greek mythology in which Icarus attempts to escape Crete by using wings made of feathers and wax. The problem was Icarus was like all punk millennials and he ignored his father’s warnings and flew too close to the sun. So of course the wings melted, he fell from the sky, plunged into the sea and didn’t come close to making the playoffs.

Icarus set the standard for future market corrections in sports. Consider the Braves. They flew too close to the sun, reaching .500 for about seven minutes this season, even if once more than expected after April. They couldn’t handle the elevation, mutated into some strange lifeform, and tumbled from the sky. They entered Tuesday with 11 losses in the last 14 games, including four straight to Philadelphia, which makes them clinically dead in seven states, and probably Crete.

So it was Tuesday that the Braves opened August looking similar to the way they looked last season, and the one before that. The rest of this 2017: devoid of meaning. They’re logically out of the playoff race. Bovada lists them at 200-1 to win the World Series for sheer amusement.

The Braves went into their series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers with a rookie pitcher (Lucas Sims) and a rookie second baseman (Ozzie Albies) both making their major league debuts. Welcome to 2018.

“We’re (in) a different climate than we were a few weeks ago,” manager Brian Snitker said. Give him credit for delivering that so delicately.

It’s about the kids now. It’s about experimenting with a lineup with Matt Adams, a defensive adventure, in left field, Danny Santana at third base and Johan Camargo at shortstop. Dansby Swanson took notes from Gwinnett.

As for what Snitker does when Matt Kemp returns from a hamstring injury, “We’ll deal with that when he gets here.”

But he’s done with the ridiculous experiment of playing Freddie Freeman at third base. Freeman was back at first against the Dodgers.

Then there’s Brandon Phillips. He’s not a part of the future. Maybe not even the near future.

Phillips wasn’t dealt at the trade deadline, presumably because nobody wanted him. To add insult to insult, Snitker told him the second base job is now in Albies’ young hands.

Snitker said he asked Phillips if he was willing to play some third base in the future. Phillips didn’t give him an answer. Truth is, he’s an impending free agent isn’t feeling the love. He has spent his entire career at second base (he played one game at third base in the minors in 2001).

“He’s thinking about it,” Snitker said.

Is he willing?

“I’m hoping,” he said. “We’ll address (the alternative) if he says he won’t. I don’t know, that’s another obstacle we’ll (deal with) when we get there.”

Is he still here?

“I hope so. We may need him.”

(Phillips did not comment before the game.)

If there’s even a hint this will get ugly, Phillips won’t be around much longer. The Braves will release him. The rest of the season will be difficult enough with kids floating in and out of the lineup. A soured veteran would only make things worse.

“We’re a different team than we were a few weeks ago,” Snitker said. “Ever-evolving, I guess.

“It’s just weird how things have a way of working out. We got Brandon and he’s been really, really good. But it’s time to see the kid. … In order to give him a taste of this game, this league, the speed, he needs to play.”

This season is now about next season. It’s about assessing young players like Albies, Sims and Camargo and maybe modest goals like avoiding a third-straight 90-loss season. The Braves started the night 48-56 (a 75-87 pace). The went 68-93 last season but that was after a 20-10 finishing kick.

Snitker said he’s “excited” to see what Albies can do. The fun-sized 20-year-old is equally thrilled. When he got the phone call that he was being called up, “I started jumping in the house, screaming.”

He was paying his rent at the time. Gwinnett teammate Ronald Acuna, considered the Braves’ No. 1 prospect, is his roommate.

“He was like, Oh you’re gonna leave me now?” Albies said, smiling. “I need a baby sitter for him.”

Albies was hitting .285 at Gwinnett this season. The Braves shouldn’t assume too much if he looks good the rest of the season because they made that mistake with Swanson and then drowned him in a marketing campaign. Swanson hit .302 in 38 games last year but struggled this season (.213) before being sent down. (But for the record, jumping ship on Swanson would be a mistake.) But the next two months at least provides a peak into Albies potential.

“The kid’s been an All-Star and he’s done well every step of the way,” Snitker said of Albies. “He’s been a leader on all of the teams he’s been on. He’s always been mature for his age. He has skills, and skills play up here. He’s an exciting little player and it’s going to be fun to watch him play.”

The Braves hope Sims can provide some positive foreshadowing about the pitching. Mike Foltynewicz is the only comforting member of next year’s rotation. The Braves saw their starting pitching go from weak to embarrassing this season. Their bullpen: even worse.

That’s how they got here – to meaningless games in August. It’s too familiar.

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31 comments
TreeRollins
TreeRollins

These listless Braves are looking for a spark and finding nothing. This tanking and long range rebuilding by our pro teams sucks. I haven't been to a Braves game for 4 years - might be 4 more. I don't go to lousy movies or Hawks games any more either. Phillips has been good so let's demote him - huh?? Garcia has been good so let's trade him for pretty much nothing. If this is how it's done - count me out!

Coach E
Coach E

Seems that next year will always be the focus of this admin. Remember when Coppo made a vow in 15 that 16 would be much better, and 17 much better than that? Well, now its 18 will be better, and 19 much better than that. At some point, he has to be accountable for the decisions he's made. 

Simmonds is hitting .302

Aubieman
Aubieman

Phillips is playing 3rd tonight. How exactly is he "out"?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Phillips was out for one game Schultzie, Brandon is starting at 3B tonight.So much for your much sought after clubhouse drama.

TZMAC
TZMAC

Playing politically correct to send down Morris who has pitched well and keep the consistently horrible krol.

redweather
redweather

Swept by the Phillies? Nice. Gives me loads of confidence the Braves will be better in the near future.

Big Wally
Big Wally

Two years ago,,the talking points were how competitive they were going 42-42, then the wheels fell off,  this year they were 45-45, then the wheels fell off. Bottom line, Coppy/Hart for all the hoop-la they get for the farm system, haven't improved the major league team at all in 3 years.  Look for them to lose over 90 games again, for the 3rd year in a row.  Rebuilding takes time, but Freeman will be long past his prime before this team competes for Championships again.

Chilidawg
Chilidawg

The future has started.  I regret this is happening to Brandon, but Beesball  is a business and Brandon has made a lot of money during his time in the business. 

BaseballBuff
BaseballBuff

I agree with you, but I fear that Snitker will be scapegoated nevertheless. He simply doesn't have the horses, yet it may take a finish like last season to earn him one more year.

I like the way Brian manages. He has done what he could to put the best players on the field at any given time and, directly or indirectly, he has let his players know that they need to perform to get or keep playing time. That's all out the window now as the youngsters get some experience, which will probably mean very few W's down the stretch. Snitker is caught between a rock and a hard place. He deserves a chance to manage with a team full of MLB-caliber players and should be renewed for next season - now.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@BaseballBuff: "He deserves a chance to manage with a team full of MLB-caliber players and should be renewed for next season - now."

_______________

Agreed, but what in the world makes you think the Braves will field "a team full of MLB-caliber players" next season???

DawgNole
DawgNole

@BaseballBuff

Tell it to the AJC, which is solely responsible for the appearance of this garbage in its pages.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

More vanilla comment on the Braves and what they should do during the last 57 games. Get as many veterans through waivers as possible, anyone not in the plans for 2018 trade , DFA or outright release. No matter what you get in return ,just free up as many roster spots for 2018 and play out the rest of 2017 with youngsters and let them compete for spots on the 2018 team. Freeman, Inciarte , Foltynewicz, and possibly Camargo are the only ones IMO that have guaranteed spots on the 2018 roster. Let the rebuild truly start , enough treading water with scraps off the heap of unsigned Free Agents to build a roster trying to avoid 90 losses. Let  the prospects play and let the chips fall where they may!

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

I guess it is just a waste of time , anything critical of COPPY is just ignored by Schultzie.I guess i should post how a friend not really a friend saved $4.7 million dealing a LHP to the Twins.

almmanduane75
almmanduane75

The Braves look like they're run by the company I work for.


And, that's not good.  


Have a nice day!! Chow

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Just wasted 10 minute typing a post , thanks schultzie . I guess the AJC is in the Bag for the Braves front office. 

dakotadean
dakotadean

This is the best opening paragraph ever... 

joedavis
joedavis

1. Please identify the person in the Braves organization who gave the green light for Sean Rodriguez to play in the majors a few weeks ago.  Some "evaluator" at some level, said, "He's ready."  I could strike him out in my slow pitch softball league.


2.  Braves can win without Freddie in the lineup.  They can't win without a healthy Kemp.  Sad part is, Kemp will never be Kemp again. With the Braves front office and managerial wisdom, he will probably limp back into the lineup in a few days, and embarrass himself again.  Does anyone in the Braves organization have the courage to insist Kemp spend the next 7 months losing weight (again) and getting healthy (again)?  Of course not.


3.  So now we have an outfield with no corner defense, and no power in center or right.  Please explain how exactly we would be worse with Lane Adams out there.


4.  Freddie's in his annual funk.  Who knows why, but get him out of the lineup for a day or two.  


5.  Flowers and Suzuki have proven they are great DH material.  Can we please get a catcher with at least a minimal amount of defensive skills?  Just the basics would be fine.  Catching the ball, throwing the ball.  



Starksy
Starksy

But...the Braves announcers say they can still make a run at the play-offs.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Starksy

That's because they're disgusting sycophants who constantly defend/rationalize/justify mediocrity--and who possess not one shred of objectivity, integrity, or professionalism.

58Supersports
58Supersports

BP deserves better from the Braves as he was one of the best players this year. Leader to younger players, good in club house and didn't cost Braves but 1 million this year. He has a right to be mad!

I understand Ozzie playing but Braves have no class... they didn't want to trade BP and others till 3 weeks ago when they lost 11 of 14. 

SRod is a joke. Santana is not a 3b... and Adams in LF my God. who is running the crazy farm. might as well bring up Acuna to join the zoo. Maybe get #1 draft pick.

I've lost lots of respect for Coppy and Snit...I do wish the kids coming up the best and will still be there watching. Lord help me!

Brave44
Brave44

Crazy thing. The Braves played better with Freeman out of the lineup. Rodriguez was the nail in the coffin. Prior to that, their was a team that seemed to be having fun and winning. Mind you the teams they played were sub-.500 but it was still fun to watch and they gave the better team a run for their money. No more. Was Santana trying to get out of the way of that line drive at third? When I saw Flowers try to throw out Puig stealing left field, I had to turn off. On the bright side, Sims had a good night. From a fan standpoint, the Braves didn't give up on the season, the front office did. And one last thing, MLB has become a game of mass. You need to fill the lineup with big kids/ free swingers.

GTONE
GTONE

@58Supersports  Couldn't have said it better... I have NO idea who is running the Asylum...

moboman
moboman

But Rodriguez still in lineup?