That last thread was getting long, so here’s an open thread with some of my thoughts on the season.
Regarding Fredi: I have defended him for the last several years on the basis of his relationship with the players. The players play hard for him and appear to support him and trust him, and that’s by far the most important job that any manager has. My measuring stick for whether he needs to be fired is exactly that long. If the clubhouse supports him, then he should be the manager. If the players no longer support him or trust him, then he needs to be axed even if he has won 190 games in two years. Johnnie B. Baker would be a good fit in Atlanta, anyway.
Regarding the lineup: We need offense. For at least each of the past five (six? seven?) years, our pressing offseason need has been outfield offense. Dan Uggla was the solution to that problem three years ago, as the Braves shifted their All-Star second baseman to left field. Last year’s solution was the Upton brothers. Our outfield is the equivalent of the house in The Money Pit. (That is the first and last reference to a Shelley Long movie that I will ever make.) As it happens, our offense was pretty good: fourth in the league in runs, third in OPS. But we were first in the league in ERA, first in runs allowed, first in quality starts. It is going to be The marginal cost of improving the offense from fourth to third is going to be lower than the marginal cost of improving the pitching beyond best in league. So I’d prefer to spend Liberty’s money on offense than on pitching.
Regarding the past month: Things have gotten pretty heated around here. The Braves got into a couple of scrapes for trying to defend their honor against Jose Fernandez and Carlos Gomez, and it turned them into a laughingstock around the league; then, they snubbed Chipper Jones in the Division Series and turned in a no-show at the media availability after the Division Series ended. On this board, the 2013 season has brought a lot more annoyance and personal sniping than a 96-win team should. It sucks to watch the season end this way. But the Braves have to behave themselves with more composure than this. We should, too.
Regarding the 2013 Braves: Right up until Uribe’s homer, I loved this team. The 2005 Braves were a joy to root for because they set a record for the most rookies on a playoff team; the 2013 Braves were an inspiration because they set a record for most regular position players with a batting average under .200. Previous teams have had to weather serious injuries to key players. This team had to weather our two highest-paid players turning into two of the worst players in baseball, and season-ending injuries to Beachy, Hudson, Venters, O’Flaherty, and (lest we forget) Cristhian Martinez.
In the meantime, we got breakout seasons from four different homegrown players: Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Mike Minor, and Julio Teheran. Luis Avilan continued his Eric O’Flaherty impression. Alex Wood showed that he’s ready to be a major contributor, and David Hale flashed promise. Whether or not he starts, Evan Gattis is going to hold a spot on someone’s 25-man roster for the next ten years. Chris Johnson redefined regression and Jordan Schafer had an improbable two months of success. Jason Heyward and Justin Upton were up and down, but when they were up, they carried the team by themselves.
We’re in a strong position for 2014. Almost all of the Braves’ best players are under 27, so a lot of them are bound to get better. Unfortunately for their fans but fortunately for us, three of the teams in the NL East are headed in the opposite direction, thanks to the brilliant leadership of Jeffrey Loria, Jeff Wilpon, and Ruben Amaro Jr. The Nationals are well-financed and have a lot of talent, but I agree with Andrelton: if they think they’re better than us, then they should look at the scoreboard.
Spring training starts in five months.