Pirates 3, Braves 2

ESPN Box Score

Baseball is cruel.

Baseball is cruel to players, who pitch their hearts out and suffer through outing after outing of no run support, or who watch their efforts become negated through shoddy defense or unlucky bloops.

Baseball is cruel to teams, who spend most of the summer on the top of the standings looking down, and then have to watch two teams celebrate postseason berths on their home field while they are left behind.

Baseball is cruel to front office personnel, who spend the one year anniversary of their team clinching the division crown cleaning out their office, having been relieved of their duties after a failed season.

Baseball is cruel to fans, who sit surrounded by the September ashes of their spring hopes, when outlooks once so bright have tarnished into a bleak future. Yet…

Baseball is beautiful.

Baseball is beautiful when the home team takes the field to start the game, crisp white uniforms standing out in the fading twilight.

Baseball is beautiful when a right fielder lays out to snag a fly ball, stealing an extra base hit from the disappointed runner.

Baseball is beautiful when a shortstop makes an impossible play, outdoing the last impossible throw or impossible turn on a double play, each one more astounding than before.

Baseball is beautiful when the ball sails high over the fence, breaking a tense moment and sending the good guys home victorious; when joy is evident on every face gathered at home plate to celebrate, and all the ills of the hard-fought battle fade into bliss of triumph.

This month has not held that beauty for the Atlanta nine, as the cruel aspect of the sport has obliterated those moments that once cemented our fandom. Tonight they took a different route to the same result that all but four games this month has held. Single runs in the first two innings were just to tease us before the bats went cold. The Pirates chipped away and eventually took the lead after plating single runs in the 4th, 5th, and 6th innings. They celebrated their persistence with a postseason berth, and for the Braves another strong pitching performance and beautiful superman play were once again overshadowed by a loss, and this historically cruel month continues.

The Pirates are the least detestable NL team to make the playoffs this year. Here’s hoping they hoist the pennant in a few weeks.

As brutal as this season—and especially the last two months—have been, having the opportunity to recap games on this site has been nothing but a pleasure for me. Thank you to all who read, or were at least willing to scroll through, the massive novels that my recaps always managed to become, and tolerated my tongue-in-cheek sarcasm over the team’s poor play. Also, a big thank you to Alex for entrusting Braves Journal to me once a week; this place has been my Internet home for over half my life, and it was nothing short of an honor to have the opportunity to contribute in some small way to this community.

Here’s to the Braves finding beauty in the game again in 2015, and, as always, Natspo(s) delenda est.

88 thoughts on “Pirates 3, Braves 2”

  1. Nicely done.

    Interesting from Heyward, on Wren: “I know good environments can be a positive thing,” right fielder Jason Heyward said. “Baseball aside, this is a work place. It’s a good thing to have people have a good working relationship with. I don’t need somebody to like me. But you want to have everyone have the same common goal. We want them to understand, it’s not an easy task what we’re trying to do as players and coaches. I’m not telling anyone how to be a GM. But I know from playing and hearing from other guys who have been elsewhere that it is always good to have a good working environment.”

  2. Five more losses and this won’t be the worst month in Atlanta Braves history by win percentage, but it will be just .002 better than April 1988 (3-16).

  3. Well, Fredi was trying to be careful with Kimbrel in that Game 4 last year? Craig has the entire October to rest now.

  4. Thanks, ‘Rissa. Very well done.

    And yes, Pittsburgh is indeed the least detestable NL club remaining.

    Which reminds me… when my team doesn’t make the post-season, I usually just root against certain teams or have that “lesser-of-2-evils” approach. Fortunately, this post-season seems to offer a few clubs (mostly in the AL) that I can actually root for.

    For me, my NL post-season rooting interests would be: 1) Pirates, then a bit of a gap 2) Giants, then a really big gap 3) Dodgers, 4) Cardinals, 5) Nationals.

    Why? Pirates have been down so long & it’s really an underrated town. SF is one of my favorite cities & I never really hated the team, despite our 2 post-season losses to them.

    The last 3 are NL clubs I just never can root for—LA being a team I learned to hate from the Braves’ old NL West days. Cardinals need no explanation–I respect ’em, but I hope they lose every game they ever play. And if the Nationals were still the Expos, I might be cool with them… but they’re certainly not. At this point, they are the very last team I want to see win this WS.

    In the AL (if the current standings hold): 1) Orioles, 2) Royals, 3) Tigers, 4) A’s 5) Angels.

    I don’t really hate any of these clubs, although the Angels have almost become Yankees West in recent years.

    Always liked the Orioles since the Brooks Robinson days & I’d love to see Buck Showalter raise the WS trophy. Royals? Talk about underdogs… Tigers? Have really taken up a liking for the city & it’s plucky nature. A’s? It would be more fun if they were vying with more over-dogs this year, instead of opening with a probable WC one-gamer vs KC. Angels? Would be fun to see 3 rounds to showcase Trout nationally, but… I could just as easily live without that as well.

  5. Great season, ‘Rissa. So nice of you to (de)lend your talents to the cause.

    And from the same Bowman article as @2:

    “At the same time, there have been cases over the past couple of years when players have complained about Wren’s attempts to help them by providing hitting tips in the video room or via text messages.”

    Yeesh. Talk about a lovable guy.

  6. Alex, and all the folks writing the recaps, I hope y’all don’t get tired of me thanking you for keeping Mac’s place the best place on the internet. ‘Rissa, thanks for the recaps. You are really good at it.

    I hate that the Braves are denigrating Wren now that he is gone. I guess its there way of justifying firing a successful GM. All that stuff should have remained in house. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sad that the Braves fired Frank Wren. Upon further reflection maybe a change needs to be made. But as someone said in an earlier post, you thank the guy for his very positive contribution to the team and let it go at that.

  7. On the broadcast, they explained that Schuerholz didn’t think Hart would actually accept. The optics of this would set him up to take on a mentoring role for Coppolella. I guess we’ll see.

  8. @13, I do not believe that for a second. As someone on that site pointed out, the Braves have something like the third most regular season wins in MLB since 2010. No way Wren gets the axe if they qualify for the playoffs. And even if true, the after-the fact character assassination/”we were gonna do it anyway” is really making the FO look like creeps.

  9. Rooting interest for the playoff teams:

    1)Royals – always been my second favorite team anyway
    2)Pirates – Like to see them do well and finally bounce back from 91 and 92
    3)A’s – Enjoy a lot of their player and be nice for Beane to finally win one
    4)Orioles – Good story but I do dislike several of their players (Jimenez, Cruz, Davis)
    5)Nats – I know I should hate them more but they’ve never won anything and I like LaRoche, Rendon, Span both Zimmermans and even Harper is fun to watch
    6)Angels – Kind of indifferent on them, I like Hamilton, Pujols and Trout so wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world
    7)Tigers – Hate most of their starts (except Price)
    8)Giants – I have a real recency bias in that I don’t want to see teams win that have won recently, also Posey was and forever will be out
    9)Dodgers – Lots of Dodger hate going back to the 80s for me, would be last if it hadn’t been so long since they won anything
    10)Cardinals – So many reasons, the “best fans in baseball” the infield fly rule, the ghost of LaRussa, but mostly it’s just that this is the team Atl should be but they just seem to do everything better than we do. I hate them.

  10. I just don’t buy the argument that the Braves lost even one game because Wren sent a text message before the game. If the Braves win, those text messages suddenly become a testimony to how much he cares. Wren was fired because the Braves didn’t win this year and with the albatross contracts of BJ and Uggla still on the books, next year doesn’t look great.

  11. @17 It’s disappointing. I was hoping that this would have been done in a classier fashion. The Braves have been a successful team under Frank Wren. That should be acknowledged.

  12. No one has failed to acknowledge Wren’s accomplishments at the ML level. That doesn’t mean his people skills (or lack thereof), a disgruntled and discordant working environment, losing talent to other organizations due to his personality traits, and the lack of pipeline development outside of Alex Wood are unimportant. I’m not sure why folks are so quick to defend Wren here. It’s not like he wasn’t given a due shot with the organization.

  13. I’m not being “quick to defend Wren” – he’s made his share of questionable moves. Framing him as some sort of rogue saboteur that failed the Braves Way and is the sole author of the teams’ woes however, is both untrue and ####ing low rent.

  14. You’re getting stuck on the “Braves Way” talking point, mostly because you don’t like the new ownership (if I’m reading you correctly over various venues.) It’s pretty clear, from every report we’ve seen, that Wren was a prickly personality who didn’t have much time to be bothered treating his direct-reports as people worthy of his time. He seems to be pretty clearly a difficult personality, to say the least. So much so, that the Braves, who haven’t fired a GM since the Reagan administration, let him go. Of course, when you fire someone who has spent 7-15 years NOT MAKING FRIENDS then the knives are going to come out a bit. That’s just how it is.

    The “Braves Way” bit is spin and marketing, but it’s also a real reference to what the power brokers (JS, BC) believe to be wrong with the organization. Namely, that we’re not producing enough pipeline talent to account for the fact that we don’t have money to burn any more. You can hack the shins if you like, but I just don’t see the big deal here.

  15. Yeah. There are the smokescreen reasons, and there are the player development/albatross contracts reasons.

    The personal attacks are classless, but not unexpected. And similar to how it’s fine for Wren to have personality flaws when he’s successful, I would care more about the way we showed Wren the door if I didn’t trust Schuerholz/Cox with the future of the team. But I do, for now.

  16. Absolutely magnificent post. It was the best thing to happen to Atlanta baseball in the last six weeks. A classic, an absolute classic.

  17. I’d like to thank everyone of our recappers for a job well done. I have especially enjoyed Rissa’s work, hope to read more in 2015.

  18. Honestly, I don’t see what a new GM is going to do with this team. The farm system is bare, the payroll is both inadequate to keep up with divisional rivals and over-committed to players who should literally be cut for minor leaguers, and the 2015 major league team will fail to make the playoffs, then lose two of its best players.

  19. @23 – I concur. No class.
    I guess all I wanted was, ‘thanks Frank for the past 7 years and good luck’ without the character assassination. If reasons for the firing need to come out then all you have to say is BJ Upton.

    @24 – Your point is valid. In the course of postmortem, stuff like Wren’s personality will come out no matter what.

  20. Guh, I’m not “hacking” at anything, whatever that means. The organization is unwilling to examine the externalities and processes that have brought them to this point, and seem to be forwarding the notion that this one person was the root of it all. Failure to develop/evaluate talent takes a lot more than one person. Perhaps the managers, coaches, and consultants have some responsibility in this regard? Maybe even the folks at the most senior levels, who have cross checking and due diligence in their own job descriptions and are the ultimate arbiters over what is spent and on whom could have done better? In short at a time when organizational introspection is needed at every single level, what is being proffered is “stay the course, it was just Frank”. If that suits you, well fine.

  21. Not taking sides in the (good) debate here, but I also don’t have any idea what “hacking at shins” means. Is it a soccer reference? In what other context can it be used?

    I hope it isn’t anything gruesome like machetes.

  22. Don’t really hate any of the playoff teams–maybe the Dodgers. @18 You are absolutely right about the Cardinals. That is the team that the Braves should be–same payroll, same “small market” type of environment (granted, the Midwest is far more baseball oriented than the football crazed South), and the same need to sort of retool most seasons. The main difference between the two teams is actually smaller than it feels–St. Louis advances in the post-season and the Braves do not. Both teams get there a lot but the Cards win series like the Braves did in the ’90s. For this reason, St. Louis seems to be the better franchise.

  23. The tarring/feathering of Wren’s ghost is unnecessary, IMO, and it probably speaks to the previously unknown level of internal discord, but it doesn’t keep me up nights either. I just hope they can make the right roster moves for 2015.

  24. There’s an interview with JS somewhere – I think I read it on the mlb site – that says that Wren was going to be fired even if we made the playoffs. If you take that at face value then this move is probably 90% personality driven and 10% performance driven. Given that, then I guess that’s why the knives have come out as he’s being shown the door. It’s pretty clear that he and Bobby didn’t have a good relationship.

  25. I don’t blame them for firing Wren, but I agree about the unnecessary tarring and feathering. He didn’t win and he didn’t build like the Braves’ FO wanted and he was fired. The other nonsense is simply noise.

  26. If you take that at face value then this move is probably 90% personality driven and 10% performance driven.

    Why? What about the state of our minor league system, which JS cited?

  27. I pray to the baseball gods that our future doesn’t have 2 dead bats, Andrelton Simmons and Christian Bethancourt, in the regular lineup. One, being Andrelton, is enough.

  28. Wren worked with Schuerholz from 1999 to his promotion in 2007. Did Wren hide his apparent lousy personality for eight years?

  29. Bethancourt

    Age/Level/OPS
    16/Rookie/.699
    17/Rookie/.788
    18/A/.607
    19/A A+/.689
    20/AA/.566
    21/AA/.741
    22/AAA/.708
    22/MLB/.524

    Point being Bethancourt has always been extremely young for his level and has always seemed to need a year to adjust not to mention he handles the most demanding position.

    He may not develop offensively but I wouldn’t write him off just yet.

  30. @39, I’m not really sure I even believe that they’d have really fired him after two straight playoff appearances. But if true, then what other reason could you really give other than “bad fit”?

  31. @42
    Too late. I’ve already written him off. Now I’m in the “prove me wrong” stage.

    White nose syndrome is terrifying.

  32. @35 – The Cardinals have also shown the ability to produce major league ready hitting talent from their minors system year after year. Maybe not stars, but they seem to have more “hit-first” guys in the system. As such, their bench is consistently more productive than Atlanta’s.

    Also separating them from the Braves is a willingness to be creative with line-up construction and player position in order to get the best bats into the line-up. I doubt the Cards organization would show the same reluctance to playing Heyward in center and Gattis in outfield.

    Braves and Cardinals do seem to share a knack for starting pitcher reclamation projects, though.

  33. @48 Thanks for reminding me. Ugh. White nose syndrome – unfortunately no cure.
    3b has to be a competition next spring. I mean fool me once but certainly you can’t gamble that Johnson is going to regress to his career averages, right? Gambled with Uggla, fail. Gambled with Upton, fail.

    Hart is looking at the off season to do list and thinking to himself ‘You’ve got to be effing kidding me! No damn way!’

  34. CJ only has to be worth 1.33 WAR/year to be worth his contract. Some 3b hungry teams would go for that.

    On a completely different note, here’s a list of Red Sox OF under control next year: Cespedes, Victorino, Castillo, Craig, Nava, Jackie jr, Holt. I’m sure they’ll make a few moves as OF isn’t the only place they’re completely logjammed. They could use a LH starting pitcher.

    Let’s go shopping for Red Sox!

  35. Wren worked with Schuerholz from 1999 to his promotion in 2007. Did Wren hide his apparent lousy personality for eight years?

    No, he took over control of the team. That, the removal of the John Schuerholz buffer zone, would increase existing issues around his communication style. Further, the first four years of his tenure he was the GM of Bobby Cox’s team. He had no leeway to micromanage Bobby Cox. When the grand old man of the organization stepped down a tendency to micromanage would have been uncorked, so to speak.

  36. “Hack the shins” is a term I picked up covering soccer in college. Basically, it means to kick in the general area of the ball that the other guy is dribbling, usually ending up with a foot on his shins.

  37. Maybe I picked up shin-hacking re: the weird British “olympick game.” It’s the 90s. I was very drunk at the time.

  38. @52 Any of those guys any good though? And lets not say they’ll be better than BJ because that’s a pretty low standard.

  39. @53, if JS can’t figure out after 8 years of managing someone that they are a colossal jerk who ought not be in an executive capacity, not only does he share a good portion of the blame for the team’s subsequent failure, he ain’t much of a manager himself.

  40. JS was in charge of keeping international bonuses down. So, Braves walked on the biggest potential Latin players.

    Somebody knew Wren had take the “high floor, low ceiling, college player” route. If they were seething, then that is a basis to move him. Before about 2009, the Braves went (1) draft and follow, (2) high school, (3) Junior College, (4) 4 year college in their drafting.

    We haven’t played on a Cuban. And before Aroldys Chapman, there had been a consistent string of disappointments there, so I don’t see how you can knock that.

    This team will be bad unless Liberty authorizes the 100 million ish payroll while considering Uggla and BJ as write offs. That is why I am virtually certain that the only GM candidates are Hart and Copollella. Why would you want a 70 mill payroll with pretty good pitching and a position player core that is mostly either (a) gone after 2015 or (b) with serious flaws or problems?

  41. @58

    Not really disagreeing, but…to have a job as a GM if you don’t see an opening anywhere else, it may be worth taking on a tough situation.

  42. Daniel Nava hits RHP very well and plays above average defense. Victorino was hurt all year, but has been a productive piece prior to last year. I really don’t know what happened to Allen Craig last year, but he had 3 straight years of great production.

    One would expect that Cespedes, Castillo, and either Victorino or Craig would be their starting OF meaning one of Victorino/Craig, Nava, and MB jr will be available with B.Holt serving as 4th OF.

  43. @64

    Our September/regular-season October record under Fredi is 46-58. 9-18 in 2011, 20-10 in 2012, 13-14 in 2013 and 4-16 so far this year.

  44. Is there a book that covers front office organizations? Like how they’re set up and what the typical roles and positions are in a the typical MLB front office.

  45. So, uh, Harang?

    6-8 for one? 10-14 for two?

    Hale will replace Santana, no one else competent will be that affordable.

  46. I chatted with a friend today that is a big Cubs fan. When we discussed Atlanta rebuilding he said, “Embrace it! Let it wash over you.”

  47. Greetings from Athens, Ga…

    Was driving up I-85 from the ATL airport tonight just after the game ended. As I neared Turner Field, I was confronted with a blinking sign warning drivers to slow & prepare for post-game traffic.

    My thought: “I don’t think so…, not tonight.”

    Dunno how many people actually attended the game, but I didn’t tap my brakes once.

  48. If he were a free agent and we could give him a 1-year deal for ~$8 mil.

    But he’s owed at least $56 million over the next three years, which is more than we owe Underlingboy, Sr. over the same time-frame. So I don’t think he’s a good option for us.

  49. Chipper Jones was incredible.

    At age 40, playing in pain most of the season, he put up a .287/.377/.455 line with 57 walks and 51 strikeouts and played a perfectly average third base.

    For comparison’s sake, Derek Jeter is 40 this year. He’s hitting .253/.301/.309 with 35 walks and 85 strikeouts, and the Fielding Bible counts his defensive contribution at -11 runs saved.

    None of that means anything other than Chipper Jones was incredible. But damn, wasn’t he?

  50. Yeah, I didn’t look at Ethier’s contract. Holy shit. The most expensive 6th OF’er in baseball.

    I’d take Chipper at 46 over Chris Johnson.

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