An Oral History of the 2012 NL Wild Card Game, Part One of Three (by W.C.G.)

Author’s Note: I attended the wild-card game last October and found it to be the most surreal sporting event I’ve ever personally witnessed in my almost 31 years. As we head into a new season that hopefully includes skipping straight into the divisional round, I thought the story of what it was like to be at Turner Field that day was worth telling. In this series, you’ll hear it from the varied perspectives of several Braves Journalers who were in attendance. – W.C.G.

The game was at an odd time, 5 p.m. on a Friday. Atlanta fans are stereotyped as apathetic and unable to beat the traffic, but my group and I got there two hours early to get standing room behind the 200 level and we barely snagged the last spot on the “bar” that rings the back of that section. I’ve been to Braves playoff games in three other years (2003, 2005, 2010) but I never felt quite so much buzz around the ballpark as I did that day.

The parking lot before the gameMAVERICK: I was a little worried we were going to get there too early because the Braves website says the parking lots only open up about 2 hours before game time. We didn’t really hit any traffic and pulled into the Orange lot at about 1 o’clock. There were already hundreds of people tailgating. I went to game 3 against the Giants in 2010 and it didn’t have the same feel as this day. It was a Friday, it was warm, and everyone thought this was our year. We had Kris Medlen, the hottest pitcher in baseball, someone who had thrown the ball so well that it was impossible for Fredi to send him back to the bullpen…and that is no small task.

We sat in the front row of the upper deck in right field. But first, we tailgated for almost 4 hours in the parking lot, and one of the guys in my group was wearing a Cardinals jersey and hat. I enjoy some good fun with fans of other teams but I hate how obnoxious some people get with it. None of that happened while we were tailgating. Everyone in the lot was having a good time and just looking forward to a sudden death baseball game. I’ve never seen that many people tailgating for a Braves game at 1 in the afternoon.

SIMPLE JACK: I left work around 1:00 and tailgated with some friends under the trees in the stadium parking lots (green lot/blue lot area?). The pre-game atmosphere was as electric as it’s ever been at a game I’ve been to. There was lots of heckling of Cardinals fans as they walked through the tailgate area towards the stadium. I had tickets in the first row behind the visitors’ dugout, section 116.

SMITTY: I had to take a half-day at work (I work in Chattanooga, TN.) A buddy of mine’s company gave him tickets, but we didn’t have a parking pass. We decided to take MARTA, which is usually an easy way to go. However, there were not enough buses to get everyone from Underground to the stadium. We got to our table in the 755 Club just in time to see Jason Heyward pull the home run back. MARTA was not ready to handle the number of people and bus them to the park. There really needs to be a line that goes out to the Ted.

JONATHAN: I took the day off work. I went to the game with my wife, our (then) 4 year old son, and my dad. We live in Greenville, SC, so it is about a 3 hour trip down to Atlanta (counting parking, getting to the stadium, etc). We left about noon, got lunch on the way, but it was not like we were getting there with several hours to spare. We got to our seats probably about 4:30.

SPIRAL STAIRS: I was in the upper deck on the third base line. By 5:00 the place was absolutely packed. That guy who carries a microphone around the stadium got on the Jumbotron right before 5:00 and said, “Okay everybody, they’re about to cut to us live on national TV and we need to show America how rowdy we are. Get your tomahawks out and start chopping!” or something to that effect. Then the loudest tomahawk chop I’ve ever heard started.

The beginning of the game was kind of shockingly full of breaks for the Braves. Heyward snow-coned a possible Yadier Molina home run while staring into the sun. Half an inning later, David Ross swung through strike three but it was ruled no pitch – time had been called – and Ross sent the next pitch out of the park for a two-run homer.

And after all that good luck, after three innings it was only 2-0. And I was standing next to my friend Al, a lifelong Cardinals fan wearing a Molina jersey, and he just looked so unconcerned.

SMITTY: I never feel comfortable when playing the Cardinals — they are the Yankees of the National League. I felt if we could take a lead into the 5th or 6th, we would be okay. I didn’t think they could touch O’Ventbrel.

Honestly, I was nervous. I felt we should have been up three or four to nothing by that point. We were lucky to have a 2-0 lead. You can’t let a team like the Cardinals off the mat.

SIMPLE JACK: Medlen had looked fantastic through the first few innings, generating a lot of swinging strikes and generally making people look silly. But at the same time, we knew the Cardinals had a great offense, and knew that Fredi was prone to making really poor pitching decisions, so I wasn’t too comfortable.

View from the stadium, shadows in the late afternooonIn the fourth inning, it seemed like everyone in a Braves uniform had a collective brain lock. Routine defensive plays turned into errors, and the Improved Fredi Gonzalez of 2012 went home and was replaced by Bunt All The Time Fredi of 2011. One of those bunts turned into Andrelton Simmons’ outside-the-baseline out, which swung what was potentially a huge rally situation into a two-out, pitcher-hitting anticlimax.

I saw it on a TV screen near the Kevin Rathbun steak stand where I was buying dinner, and I distinctly remember high-fiving a dude in a wheelchair. And then they took it off the board, and with enough replays I eventually figured out they had called Simmons for running outside the baseline, and the wheelchair dude and I just looked at each other like well, that sucked.

SMITTY: From where I was in the 755 Club, we had no idea what went down for almost a half-inning. However, to this day, I still don’t understand bunting there, unless you’re going to hit for the pitcher.

SPIRAL STAIRS: I was definitely confused for a short while by the play where Andrelton was called out at first after what looked like a bunt single, but I quickly came to the realization that he must have been running in the baseline.

I think this play played a part in priming the crowd for its explosion at the umpires in the 8th. By the time of the infield fly call people were already pissed. Shortly after Andrelton getting called out there was a video during one of the inning breaks where an umpire (not sure who) asked the crowd to donate to some charitable cause and the video was greeted with a chorus of boos.

MAVERICK: We were in the upper deck looking right down the first base line and still couldn’t figure out that Andrelton was out of the base path. It took someone texting me to find out why Andrelton was called out.

There was a lot of life to this team that just wasn’t present in 2011. But I had a feeling from when we could not catch the Nats that we were going to get screwed by Bud Selig. He took a faulty wild card system and made it ten times worse. Even in the parking lot before the game I had a bad feeling in my gut, it had nothing to do with the Braves team but everything to do with the system.

To be continued…

97 thoughts on “An Oral History of the 2012 NL Wild Card Game, Part One of Three (by W.C.G.)”

  1. What a great opening to the play-in game saga! Thanks to all contributors and kudos on a job well done. Bravo Zulu.

  2. Thanks a bunch to the five contributors who have taken time (and are still taking time) all month to answer my constant stream of emails about their experiences, and to Alex for letting me run with this project.

    Just to go head on and break ’em off a lil preview of the remix, I edited Part II into existence yesterday and I honestly think it’s the best thing I might ever submit to the internet. It’s “The Dark Knight” of this trilogy. Coming Tuesday-ish.

  3. I understand the frustration surrounding this game — I really do — but you guys didn’t get screwed by Bud Selig and a faulty Wild Card System. If you were on the other side of that coin (let’s say you made the playoffs through this Wild Card system as the #2 seeded W.C. team) then you would hailing the new system. The fact of the matter is, your team got screwed by some bad umpiring. This happens in the game of baseball. You’re not the only team to experience it.

    You want to know what being screwed by Bud Selig feels like? Talk to an Astros fan who witnessed Selig block a sale of the team because he wanted to see them switch to the American League. Then, when their current owner (who is seemingly always under investigation for war profiteering) wouldn’t budge, he gave him a 70 million dollar discount.

    The Braves have a solid team and, oh yeah, they’re still in the National League. I would be surprised if you guys don’t win the division this year (I’m not a believer in the Nats). Don’t complain.

  4. I can already feel the knot forming in the pit of my stomach. I’d say thanks for this, but I’m not sure yet. I suppose games like that will make the bubbly taste better at the end of this season.

  5. @3, You do realize that you’re railing against everyone who posts on this site for one person’s opinion.

    The Braves probably didn’t play well enough to win, the umpires robbed us of the chance to know that for sure, and whatever inequity exists in the wild card system or regular season schedule gets some share of the blame too, but a relatively smaller one, in my mind.

    I watched the game while sick in a hotel room. It was the first cold day of the year since winter, where I was. Just a miserable day. But this post actually brings some enjoyment to it.

  6. @3 We missed the playoffs by one game in 2011, so we know what it’s like to be screwed on both ends. The result is still the same. Just because Selig did something idiotic to some other team doesn’t make what happened in 2012 any less stupid.

  7. It’s been a long time since we’ve had trolls from other teams on the site, and usually they’re from the Mets. I’m guessing that guy is long gone, secure in the knowledge that he has educated us and taught us a valuable lesson.

  8. @3, I disagree and I stand with Maverick’s assessment of the new WC system as quoted in the post.

    Baseball teams play 162 games a season, more than any other sport I’m aware of. The Braves worked all season to finish 6 games ahead of the Cardinals, which is a not-insignificant margin. To reduce the difference between those seasons to a one-game coin flip where breaks, umpiring, etc. are intensely amplified is an insult.

    I’d feel the same way if it came out the other way around and the Braves were 6 games behind at the end of the regular season. If you want to put that team in the postseason, make them win a full series to get in.

    I’m someone who has spent years rolling his eyes at the NCAA basketball tournament, because for all the fuss about “upsets!” and “buzzer-beating drama!” what it essentially does is toss a bunch of teams into a weighted random number generator and craft narrative around the results. I’ve always preferred sports that play series or just skip the idea of “postseason tournament” entirely for that reason. Now baseball’s moving in the direction of Chipper’s “why not just put all 30 teams in a single elimination bracket, it’ll be exciting!” sarcastic quote, and I’m not happy about it.

    I almost considered skipping this game on philosophical grounds for that reason, but since if we lost it was Chipper’s final game, I couldn’t not go. Someday the Astros will be good again, and I promise if they get screwed by the randomness of one game against a team they spent the season being better than, I’ll complain on your behalf too.

  9. By the way, I didn’t realize that the new Astros owner has been accused of discrimination and war profiteering, but here’s a story all about it:

    In the Chronicle report:

    “Crane told his subordinates not to hire blacks because “once you hire blacks, you can never fire them.” On other occasions, Crane explained the reason he wanted to keep blacks out of the company was that his top managers are bigoted and they would mistreat the minorities, “giving them no choice but to sue Eagle.””
    In August 2006, Eagle paid $4 million to settle a civil lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice alleging that the company had inflated the costs of military shipments to Iraq. The company had allegedly added $0.50 for each kilogram of freight transported to Baghdad, war risk surcharges, on shipments from Dubai to Iraq from November 2003 to July 2004.

  10. @5 I’m not railing against anyone or any particular set of fans. I’m addressing an attitude that permeates throughout the game of baseball — one that seems to materialize in the discourse of Brave’s fans every year. It’s this suffering fan complex that runs rampant in Atlanta. I grew up there. All of my friends root for the Braves. Every year I seem to hear the same complaint. Somehow, someway, the Braves got screwed. they blew it. Life is so difficult. I don’t want to discount anything that occurred in 2012 or 2010 for that matter. I’m also willing to concede that some teams seem to catch all the breaks (S.F., for instance; Tampa in some cases). However, most Braves fans in their mid-to-late-twenties don’t even know what it’s like to truly experience a disastrous season. Your team is (almost) always competitive. It’s really a wonderful thing to see an organization be that consistent. I’m just advocating that you guys own that for once. Stop dwelling on how Cody Ross pulled in stinker in ’10 or how the umps screwed you guys in ’12.

    @6 Missing the playoffs by a game is not the same as getting screwed by the system. That IS the system and it’s the one you guys want back. Also, that year featured a monstrous meltdown of which only the Braves are responsible for. You’re lucky the Red Sox eclipsed your debacle that year. Anyways, I’d say the fact that you were still in the hunt in September is a good thing. Nobody screwed you in ’11.

    P.S. I think it’s great that y’all are documenting historic moments like these. I don’t want to discount that at all. I think Braves fans are some of the most passionate out there (which is not the consensus around the league) and something like this is really a great thing to be doing. I just wish you would take a minute to appreciate how great it is to have moments like these to document year after year. Good or bad, at least they are exciting.

  11. @ A. Remington. Oh, yeah, Crane is a piece of work. I really was surprised they even approved the sale at all. I’m pretty sure he tried to buy the Cubs or something years ago and was denied the sale. He’s of dubious character, but whatever. The team is going to win 40 games tops this year. With a 40-122 season, I don’t care who owns the team or what league we are in.

    Also, you can call me a troll. That’s fine. I don’t think any of my comments are mean-spirited and I’m not trying to be a dick, but that’s fine. Why would I read this site if I didn’t admire what you guys do here.

    Alas, maybe this is all fueled by jealousy.

  12. I like to see an Astros fan crying about a new owner. Their last owner was one of the worst owners in sports.

  13. First I’ve heard of this.

    • Edward Salcedo hit two home runs in the split-squad 10-5 win over the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla., on Saturday. Salcedo has been a disappointment both offensively and defensively since gaining the largest bonus the Braves have ever given an international signee in 2010. If he continues to struggle with the glove at third base, he could be moved to the outfield.

  14. Nersh, you’re welcome to read, but your comments suggested that you haven’t been here for very long. In my writeup of the wild card game, I wrote, “Tonight, the Braves lost on the merits.” But the whole purpose of an internet sports blog is to be able to bitch about your team. You came here and in your first comment on the site you criticized everyone here with a broad, inaccurate brush. That’s the definition of trolling.

  15. My only complaint regarding last year was the way MLB handled the “infield fly rule” call. It probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the game but it was a major screwup and the response was to deny, deny deny and as a fan it was infuriating.

    I don’t have any particular problem with the play-in game, as it was the Braves to win and they proceeded to choke as they always do. When Chipper threw the ball into right field I knew it was over.

  16. Alas, maybe this is all fueled by jealousy.

    More likely hatred of the wild-card in general, and wild card(s) in goddamn particular. Re-read #8. It’s a terrible way to decide anything, but we know it’s not going to go away, because of the perceived need to add real-time drama to baseball – apparently Selig and Co. have it in their head each game needs to be an episode of 24 or something in order to compete with other sports. It’s counter to the virtues of the sport for many. It’s also the reality going forward, and likely to get even worse at some point. I think I have the right to grouse about that a little.

  17. Power is the one tool that Salcedo has really shown in the minors: last year in High-A as a 20-year old, he had an ISO of .172. His plate discipline is bad, he strikes out a lot and doesn’t walk enough, but the power is real. Also, it’s encouraging that when he moved from Low-A in 2011 to High-A in 2012, he had basically the same results: his OBP dipped a bit, unfortunately, but his power grew a bit, and according to Baseball America’s minor league park factors, it looks like High-A Lynchburg is actually a tougher place to hit than Low-A Rome. He’s just 21, and won’t turn 22 until July 30.

    On the other hand, the defense is an obvious problem. His minor league fielding percentage is .893; he made at least 40 errors in both 2011 and 2012. He would have a lot more value if he could stick in the infield. But right now his defense is less of a worry than his offense, I would have to say. Hopefully the two home runs can give him some confidence going forward. If he can’t put it together this year, he’ll start to be considered a prospect bust.

  18. Sometimes I wonder where MLB would be today if Bart Giamatti hadn’t died. Who, in your opinion, would make a good commissioner? Would it be a former player? A former GM? A broadcaster (Costas)? Someone from the big bad world of business? Just interested to know what your criteria would be.

  19. And yeah. I wrote a column decrying the second Wild Card last February, eight months before the Braves lost the Wild Card Game. Prior to 1969, there were two playoff teams in baseball, then there were four in 1969, then eight in 1995, and now 10 as of 2012. The number of playoff teams is expanding at an accelerating rate, and that worries me because it cheapens the regular season. Pretty soon you reach an event horizon like the NBA, where the majority of teams make the playoffs. I don’t ever want to see that happen in baseball.

  20. For W.C.G. and friends,

    You’re stories convey the urgency of a wild-card playoff game as well as anything Sports Illustrated has done!

    Well done and I can’t wait for the next installment. You guys rock!

    Go Braves!

  21. @Smitty. I would agree with you on that one. Astros fans are a bit like Israel: always asking for a new leader, only to find out that this one was worst than the last.

    @Spike I have no hatred for the wild card system. It’s the wild card system that allowed the Astros to fall ass-backwards into a World Series. What you’re hitting on is a product of late-capitalism. More teams in the playoffs results in an increased number of high-stakes, high-intensity games, resulting in more exploited labor value (I’m not talking baseball players here. I’m talking about the working class people who make the thing go) and a higher rate of surplus value. As long as capitalism is around, baseball will continue its march toward modernity.

    @Remy Given the choice between Selig and George W. Bush, Selig might be the better option. Then again, with Bush at the helm, this country might look a little differently…

    I really didn’t mean to stir things up here. Whatever, go Braves? Seriously, though. I think you guys will make a run at the division this yr.

  22. Nersh, thanks for your comments. I find it interesting to hear the thoughts about the Braves by people who follow other teams. I resonated with your comment about some Braves fans who don’t truly appreciate how wonderful it is to follow a team who is always competitive. My son who is 25 and a Braves fan because of me {even though we live in KS} has no memory of when the Braves were terrible. As a result, he has less appreciation of how great this organization has been.

  23. I like the “I really didn’t mean to stir things up here” after the Marxist analysis of the wild-card and Bush-bashing. We should have other fans tell us what they think of us more often :)

  24. @JoelK Honestly, man, that’s all I was trying to convey. I tell my friends all the time that I don’t think I’ve ever seen an organization accomplish what the Braves have been able to achieve over the past twenty years. They are fiscally responsible, they draft well, they develop players quickly (but they don’t push them through the system), they hire the right people (although I know some fans don’t like Freddy. I don’t watch the Braves play all the time, so I can’t comment on his abilities as a manager). I think the Giants and the Cardinals are the only other teams in NL who run their organization as well as the Braves. And, honestly, it’s hard to say where the Cardinals stand since Pujols was such a major part of their run for so many years. I mean, the only move I can recall that didn’t seem to work out for the Braves was the Teixiera trade. You guys gave up a lot there, but, hey, it’s Mark Texeira. I’m sure you guys can point to other moves over the years, but that’s the one that sticks out in my mind.

    I thought you guys were finished when Leo Mazzone left, but you continue to pump out quality pitching. You have no idea how tough that is to do (or maybe you do). Anyways, I don’t think there’s a team in baseball that runs an organization as well as the Braves – definitely not in the NL.

    @Adam R. Bush-bashing? Maybe Bush-teasing. I’m glad you caught the irony, though.

  25. What you’re hitting on is a product of late-capitalism. More teams in the playoffs results in an increased number of high-stakes, high-intensity games, resulting in more exploited labor value (I’m not talking baseball players here. I’m talking about the working class people who make the thing go) and a higher rate of surplus value. As long as capitalism is around, baseball will continue its march toward modernity.

    We have extremely different ideas of what constitutes modernity. And I hardly think a single “high stakes” game per season per league constitutes much in the way of marginal income to the sport so as capitalism goes, it’s pretty weak sauce. Why not just make the LDS a best of 7 and get potentially FOUR more games? I seriously doubt the delta for the teams that were kinda close to St Louis was all that. PHI STL LAD and MIL have all had similar good attendance, and ARI similarly lousy attendance without the OMG 2ND WILD CARD FEVER!!!! I don’t think it’s a particularly good moneymaker, I find it to be anti-capitalistic, in that it allows a team with a superior attendance base/seasonal record to be knocked out and potentially screw up ratings for the entire postseason, and it is singularly unaesthetic and counter to the way the rest of the season and postseason is conducted. It’s a shitty flinstonian get rich quick scheme that has just had the opposite impact, IMHO, of it’s intent just like making the AS winner the home league for the WS, it’s a contrived bit of drama that nobody falls for and every decent person hates on sight.

  26. All I know is:

    Nationals: 98 wins
    Reds: 97 wins
    Braves: 94 wins
    Giants: 94 wins

    Cardinals…88 wins.

    There was one turd in the punch bowl that clearly didn’t belong, and wouldn’t have in any seasons prior to 2012. Selig and crew ruined some good all-90+ win NL postseason baseball last year.

    Selig and Torre have basically said their version of “excitement” is as many mediocre teams as possible, as late into the regular season as possible, deluding themselves that they’re contenders. See: 2012 Phillies, Dodgers and Brewers.

  27. I didn’t mind that nearly as much as 2006, when an 83-win team won the NL Central and then won the World Series. That was an abomination, and they didn’t even need the Wild Card to do it. And, of course, the 1987 Twins won the World Series with 85 wins, but 1987 was a weird year all around.

    Before divisional play and unbalanced schedules, you generally didn’t have win totals that lopsided. Before 1968, the two least-winningest teams were the 88-win L.A. Dodgers in 1959 and the Detroit Tigers in 1945, and that was long before the season was expanded to 162 games.

    The thought that a .500 ballclub could make the playoffs, let alone win the World Series, frankly offends me as a human being.

  28. Right. The first wild card has produced a lot less travesties than the small divisions. The worst record from a wild card-winning team in a 162-game season came from the 2006 Dodgers, at 88-74. It also let deserving teams like the 2001 A’s (102 wins) get in. Now look at the records of some of those past division “champs”, and try to explain why winning the division automatically makes a team morally superior to a wild card winner.

    The most fair way would probably be to abolish divisions and let the top four (or five, now) teams by record get in. Then we wouldn’t have division “champs” such as the 2005 Padres and 2006 Cardinals polluting the postseason.

  29. I think because the Braves were in the wild-card game, and suffered from it, we are overlooking the point that the wild-card game is designed to screw the wild-cards. (More fairly, it is to reward the division winners.) Even if the Braves had won, they had to burn Medlen to do it, which is an advantage to the division winners, and frankly, one they earned.

    Yes, we finished 6 games ahead of the Cardinals. Selig doesn’t care about that, he cares that we finished 4 games behind the Nationals. There should be a penalty for that,
    and I understand that completely.

  30. @31: yes, but the Braves won as many games (94) as one NL division winner, the Giants. Also, the Tigers finished six back of the Braves, with the same ‘meh’ record of 88-74 as the Cardinals, but still won their division.

    Maybe, just maybe, the divisions are the main problem here? Every year, there’s a team that can point and say: “if we were in that division, our team would have won the division.”

  31. Yes. The Wild Card Game is supposed to make it harder on Wild Card winners, while simultaneously creating two new playoff teams. It’s an ingenious solution to the problem of Wild Card teams having mediocre seasons then blazing their way to the World Series.

    But I still don’t like it because I don’t like that baseball keeps creating new playoff teams. I feel like Abraham Simpson: “Dear Mr. President, There are too many states nowadays. Please eliminate three. P.S. I am not a crackpot.”

  32. The 1973 NL pennant-winning Mets went 82-79. The pitching-rich club won a terrible NL East, beat the 99-win Reds 3 games to 2 in the NLCS (which featured the Pete Rose/Bud Harrelson fight), then lost the WS in 7 games to Oakland.

    Also, in the unfinished 1994 season—the first with 6 divisions—the Texas Rangers were leading the AL West after 114 games. They were 52-62.

    Re: Commissioner
    I believe that if Giamatti had lived—and irked ownership the way Vincent did—the owners would’ve just fired him/no-confidenced him, too.

    BTW, wanna read a great baseball-related obit? Here’s one:

  33. Anyone else hear the word “huckleberry” in their heads at the mere mention of ‘landogarner’?

  34. @18

    The owners pick the commish and it will be a guy who is loyal to them. I am sure Bud has the guy lined up. It may be someone like Stan Casten.

  35. #3: “If you were on the other side of that coin (let’s say you made the playoffs through this Wild Card system as the #2 seeded W.C. team) then you would hailing the new system. ”

    BS. I’d feel happy to have won but also fully aware it’s a silly contrivance that undermines the integrity of the 162-game season, which actually means something to me that a one-game playoff makes almost irrelevant.

    Well written article, but part 2 is going to suck. Yeah, I’m still pissed.

  36. Love this compilation.

    I also agree with Rusty S that the wild card game could be seen as adding value to the regular season, at least in terms of winning your division. It’s an interesting point the arbitrary division of teams is most culpable for inferior teams getting into the playoffs. It will always be that way.

    I do like that another game makes it just a bit harder for the WC to run through to the championship. I just think a 3-game series is a better solution.

  37. The thing is, the arbitrary divisions are badly exacerbated by unbalanced schedules.

    Also, there’s this: because of the distribution of wealth in this country (and, actually, in every country), the coasts will always have a greater concentration of wealth than the interior of the country, and so the West and East divisions will usually have stronger teams than the Central divisions. That doesn’t mean that the Cardinals can’t win the World Series, but it does mean that they’ll have a much easier regular season than the teams on the coasts.

  38. #43: Agreed on that first line. I’d be far more amenable to a one-game play-in if the schedules were balanced. The fact that we have somehow gotten into a terminal case of unbalanced schedules over the years is a clear sign of dereliction of commissioner’s duties.

  39. @41, my oral history of Game 4 of the ’05 NLDS would have been pretty short. It would have just been interviews of the five or six guys watching with me in the Red & Black break room, and it probably would have just been the word “fuck” over and over again.

    Divisions are dumb. Just take the top four teams in the league and play nothing but 7-game series.

  40. Saw Florida Gulf Coast beat Mercer in the ASun Championship game. I thought they looked pretty impressive. I would never have predicted this though.

  41. I just noticed that Pagnozzi has caught 3 of Medlen’s last 4 starts. They have all been stinkers. The only one he didn’t catch, Medlen only gave up 2 hits. Let’s just blame it on Pagnozzi, shall we?

  42. @49 Nersh in @26 said
    “although I know some fans don’t like Freddy”.
    Everyone likes Freddy.

  43. Med Dogs last two starts came against the Phillies and the Nationals. I don’t know this, but it seems possible to me that he was reluctant to show them his real stuff.

    Besides, ST stats don’t matter.

  44. I’ll feel a lot less worried about the rotation when Beachy comes back — over the summer, hopefully. Until then, we’ll have to worry that Daniel Rodriguez can basically be Jorge Campillo, because I don’t think either Gilmartin or Graham is ready.

  45. So, what do the Dodgers do if Crawford starts the year off on the DL and Puig shreds the league up with his bat? How ’bout us? What do the Braves do if Gattis gives league average defense while destroying baseballs during McCann’s DL stint? I guess those are good problems to have but could be media nightmares for both teams.

    If Gattis hits and our pitching gets thin, I still expect McCann to be shopped at the trade deadline, especially if it looks like we won’t be receiving a draft pick back for him.

  46. No freaking way are we trading Brian McCann while trying to make the playoffs. This Gattis thing is officially cuckoo-bananas. People are losing they minds.

  47. Medlen has talked about going with different sequences than he otherwise would in the regular season, but has also confessed he’s not executing as well as he’d like just yet.

    You just have to keep telling yourself: small samples, working on things, shaking off rust, not tipping one’s hand vs division rivals…it’s really best not to draw conclusions. As long as he’s healthy and the velocity is there, trust the bigger sample.

  48. Maybe someone can convince Selig to add the DH right before the season so we can have a spot in the lineup for Gattis?

  49. @62

    I agree. Gattis has ZERO AB at an MLB level.

    I hope he does well, but too many people are going overboard.

    There is talk he should be starting at third base, even though he has never played there. On top of that, the guys slatted to play third are having great springs as well. I guess Spring Training stats only count for some and not others.

  50. Well, I know you’re all on tenterhooks, but Yale backed into the hockey playoffs with the 15th seed after their two losses this weekend. Plus, I lost $125 at Paigow Poker. Good Guinnesses at The Irish Pub, though. Thanks, ububba.

    For your last dose of non-baseball action before the season starts, watch ESPNU at 2 PM Friday to see your Yale Bulldogs take on the 2nd seeded Minnesota Gophers, and a possible, if unlikely, regional final on 4PM Saturday.

    Weighing in on the WC, I’m just not as distressed at bad records getting in given the unbalanced schedule. And the unbalanced schedule doesn’t bother me either… I really prefer it. If you’re going to have a balanced schedule, why do you need divisions?

  51. I love Paigow — it’s relatively slow-moving and communal, and you get to make actual decisions. But yeah, it’s not nearly the safe haven that it seems to be, dollar-wise.

  52. I think it’s natural for fans to get excited (even to unreasonable levels) about Gattis – he’s a fantastic talent and in his short professional career he’s been a consistently excellent hitter. That said, I think the Braves have realistic expectations for Gattis – as of now, he’s either a backup C/LF/pinch hitter, or he goes to AAA. If he gets enough ABs to hit more than, say, 15 HRs this year at the major league level, things either went really well or really poorly for the Braves.

  53. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect good things from Gattis, and I also don’t think it unreasonable for the Braves to consider shopping McCann should Gattis succeed as there doesnt seem to be chance of re-signing him. The alternative might be to let him walk for free and being a mid-market team for years to come, that doesn’t seem wise.

    This comes from a guy that was on the “Free Matt Young” campaign, but also from a guy that argued for Kris Medlen in the Tommy Hanson>Medlen debate. Needless to say I get excited and giddy, but it’s not completely irrational.

  54. For a 22 year old hotshot, another year of AAA experience sacrifices a year of MLB production but doesn’t sacrifice a year of MLB control in the “good years.” For the typical “guy who gets hot at 26 in the low minors,” the extra year of AAA exists to prove it isn’t a fluke. But Gattis’ unusual time out of baseball puts him in neither of those categories. He’s not young, and he was always a good hitter. I say try him. You can always move him back to AAA if he doesn’t hit. But if he hits, why would you ever send him down? And if you send him down right away and he hits in AAA, aren’t going to regret those hits you could have had in Atlanta?

  55. @54 and 58: FWIW, I live in the Philadelphia area and the Phillies fans I talk to up here say they’re not worried about the Braves because they think the rotation is going to be problematic.

  56. I think it’s possible the rotation might be slightly problematic but I also think it’s just as probable that our offense and defense more than offsets that rotation problematic-ness.

  57. The Phillies should not worry about the Braves because they have more than enough to worry about with their own crappy team.

  58. I think the Phillies are going to suck HARD this year. They are about to get old fast. JMHO

    I am more worried the Braves have put too much faith in Minor and to a much lesser extent Medlen too soon. If Medlen and Minor fall off last year and Hudson gets old, our rotation is going to be hurting.

    Or Medlen and Minor take steps forward and Timmy keeps father time at bay for another year, this could be a really fun year.

    I just hope we don’t have to spend a prospect and some of that money in the bank on a pitcher at the deadline.

  59. I’ll worry about the rotation on April 6th or 7th after they’ve all received a meaningful start. I’ll worry about 2b/3b issues on April 1st and not any sooner than that.

  60. I’m not worried about 2B. I think if Uggla crashes, we can fix that. The rotation, not worried yet, but I am a little concerned.

    I am excited for April 1 and especially April 5 (first game I have tickets to.)

  61. @66 good luck to Yale in the tourney. The ECAC is well represented this year. I’m a UMass-Lowell fan myself, but I think the River Hawks are likely to lose to UNH in Manchester.

  62. I’m not going to worry about the rotation until May 1 at the earliest. So there.

    I like the look of this team and I think they should have a strong shot to make the playoffs. I think folks are underestimating the Phillies. If they’re healthy, they have a legit shot to make another run. Big “if”, but it would be foolish to dismiss the talent on that team, old as it is becoming.

  63. I think our rotation will be better this year than it was last year. I’m not too worried.

  64. @81: Another hockey fan out of the woodwork! Here’s to a Lowell-Yale Semifinal. Fly High, Bernard!

  65. Loved Part 1. I’m sure the rest will be great too.

    Reading the accounts of tailgating and excited anticipation before the game reminded me of my own nervous apprehension leading up to the play-in game (don’t let them fool you, it’s a play-in game. This gimmick is about as legit as calling the “first four” the first round of the ncaa tourny).

    Maybe it was my general pessimism that had me thinking the Cardinals would prevail. But then I consider myself more of a realist than pessimist or optimist. I think I have been conditioned to expect playoff failure over the last 15 years. Maybe it’s the famous “lack of timely hitting” or the parade of errors in 2010 & 2012. Or maybe it’s just because 2001 (the last time this team won a playoff series) feels like a looooong time ago to a dude in his 20’s. I just want to win a darn game 1 and get the playoff monkey of this team’s back. Looking at the current roster though, I’m thinking one game might be the only chance they get again.

  66. What gets me is not poisoning the trees, but the act of calling a radio station to tell everyone he did it. What did he think was going to happen, other than his arrest? He used to be a state trooper in Texas.

  67. The mere fact that Tide fans are now called Updykes instead of Gumps will haunt this man for the rest of his life.

  68. Fans from all teams can be stupid because people can be stupid. He doesn’t make Alabama fans or any other fans better or worse. He’s just a mentally disturbed individual. If it wasn’t about football it could be about anything – like some of the crazy stuff that goes on with little league parents.

  69. Bethany, I assume you did the design work for Left Field Brewery? Nice job. The Eephus isn’t bad beer, either.

  70. @93 Nah, that’s not my work, unfortunately, it’s really nice!

    I could say a lot of things right now about Harvey and his fanbase but I’m going to keep my mouth shut. I’m glad it’s over and I wish I could be in Auburn for the final rolling of the trees before they are removed.

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