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Colby Wilson’s Braves Report: What’s Wrong Now?

[1]The things that are happening for/to the Braves right now – with this lineup, this rotation, this bullpen set-up – are not working. Sorry.

Here’s a sampling of things Braves have said about the Braves woes the last few days:

Rebuttal: It’s June. You just got an extension, along with three-quarters of the starting infield. When, exactly, should the commoner expect you to find the offense? Got a tentative date in mind?

Rebuttal: You could sub this quote in for a lot of different ‘BJ Upton made a boo-boo’ situations the last 18 months. By the way, you’re the most expensive free-agent acquisition the Braves have ever made. Battling hard began to ring hollow about this time last season.

Rebuttal: No, you’re not. You’re 6-10 in June, 14-16 in your last 30. You’re not very good right now. If you were in the AL East or AL West, you’d be in fourth place. If the Marlins were ready or the Nats were healthy, you’d already be a speck in the rearview in this division.

Evan Gattis, Justin Upton, Tommy La Stella and Shae Simmons have been the four most important players this month, in some order. Two of them are rookies. I don’t think this is what anyone was expecting when Frank Wren went on his big spending spree.

As a fan, it would be great for me if there was something to point to and complain about. You can get your mad up if guys aren’t running out grounders or loafing after fly balls or for other general laziness. It’s harder to get frustrated at guys for…

What?

What exactly am I to be frustrated by here?

That they’re bad ballplayers? I know that’s not true. I’ve watched guys like Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman their whole careers. They’re not bad ballplayers.

That they’re losing to crappy ball clubs like the Phillies? Hell, that happens. Bad teams beat good teams. The worst team in baseball usually wins 60 or so games. No team is perfect and no team is full-on failure (except the Mets, of course).

That management is screwing up? I can’t say that confidently. With hindsight, of course Frank Wren would like a do-over on the Dan Uggla/B.J. Upton signings. But at the time, both were sought-after commodities and the Braves were aggressive enough to get them. He swung, he missed. It happens on free-agent signings sometimes – twice in a row, in this case.

And while I’m never gonna be the biggest Fredi Gonzalez fan, I happen to think this is his finest season at the helm. With no leadoff hitter, a patchwork rotation, a team hell-bent on breaking the strikeout record and seemingly losing another guy in the bullpen every week, they should be under .500. That Fredi has this bunch a game out of first is actually pretty phenomenal.

Nobody cares about that. Twenty years of division titles and playoff berths have set a level of expectation that will be tough to attain year in and year out. The Braves have put themselves in an unusual situation – with one World Series since the start of the ‘dynasty’, expectations aren’t necessarily sky-high, but all the playoff berths mean never bottoming out. Being middle of the road is always a tough spot – the Astros and Padres of the world offer hope with youth and if you’re a good team, of course everyone’s happy. Winning 85? Good for some, bad for others and for the Braves in 2014, probably about the right prediction.

‘The Drive for 85’. Can you feel the excitement? Get those tickets now for those all-important September series against the Mets, Pirates and Phillies as the Braves scrap and claw for a Wild Card spot or the championship of 2014’s most watered-down division!

What to Read

Well-wishes to Joe Simpson. I know I make fun of him a lot, but he underwent Achilles surgery [7] on Tuesday morning and is missing from the broadcast for the next few days. I need to know who, at any given time, is hotter than a dancing bobcat, and that’s information that only Joe Simpson can give me. Hurry back, Joe.

Stat o’ the Week

Productive outs (pitcher sacrifice with one out, moving a runner up with the first out or driving in a runner with the second out) have been a big bucket of fail for the Braves this year. Atlanta is tied for worst percentage (25 percent with the Nats) and fewest total productive outs made (59 with the Padres).

If you only catch one game of the Nationals series, make it…

This weekend will separate the men from the boys. The Nats will throw out Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark in the four-game series. Strasburg is always the main attraction, but Fister and Julio Teheran going mano-a-mano Saturday (6:15 p.m. CT) in Washington is the best from a matchup stand-point.

Complementary Old-Timey Baseball Quote

“The doc [who] looked at the MRI told me I had an old elbow. I told him, ‘I could have saved you $750 and 45 minutes and told you that before I got here. I also have an old knee, old feet and an old wife.’” – Former Brave Kent Mercker, then a 38-year old, on being placed on the disabled list by the Reds with a sore elbow

Craig Kimbrel Fact No. 33

Craig Kimbrel turned down a winter job of playing point guard for the Miami Heat.