Clarksville, TN – When the administration of your favorite baseball team decides to spend two years of your life revamping the roster and dumping every high (or moderately) priced veteran in the process and turning everything over to the kids, judging success becomes more difficult. The Braves currently hovering-at-. 500 record is nice, but for a team whose motto is a bedazzled ‘2017!’, that doesn’t really matter.
The record doesn’t matter just like the early season success of A.J. Pierzynski (a homer every 12 at-bats!) or Chris Johnson or the relative struggles of Cameron Maybin because if this thing breaks right, nobody is going to care about them in two years – they’ll be somebody else’s problem or retired or mired on the end of the bench.
For all intents and purposes, four regulars matter – Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Jace Peterson and Nick Markakis and the latter only because he’s signed for four years and we’re stuck with him. The other half of the lineup is there because someone has to play.
Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons (19)
(And sorry, it’s hard to consider Christian Bethancourt a ‘regular’ when a guy many consider a decrepit pariah (Pierzynski) is platooning with him. In a season that was destined to be disappointing on some levels regardless of how it turned out, Bethancourt’s inability to wrestle the everyday job away from a 38-year old who has napalmed bridges with nearly every organization he’s ever joined is the clear leader for ‘most disappointing moment’ right now.)
It’s hard to get attached to Pierzynski, Maybin, et al., because they’re either hired guns (Eric Young Jr.), stopgaps until the next man is ready (Pierzynski), retreads (Kelly Johnson) or some combination of the three. It’s the equivocation of letting the computer sign free-agents for you in a video game – there doesn’t have to be rhyme or reason, there just has to be 25 names on the lineup card. Enjoying someone like Jason Grilli, who has been really good so far (until Tuesday night), feels hollow, somehow.
I mean, we know success or failure or even stability in sports is fleeting – these aren’t new notions. But they are problematic when viewing the fan experience as a journey that goes beyond wins and losses. I want the Braves to do well because I always want the Braves to do well, but I have no vested interest in the day-to-day fortunes of Eric Stults, and neither does anyone else outside of his immediate family. He seems nice, but that’s about as far as it goes.
The flip side of this coin is that we will grow to care about guys like Matt Wisler, Mike Foltynewicz and Mallex Smith, as they will be ‘our guys’ and break in with the big club and go on to fruitful careers and lead Atlanta to many championships (or so the theory goes). A year or two of Trevor Cahill and Jonny Gomes is the price you pay to allow those seeds to blossom into a championship ballclub. Theoretically, that’s all perfect.
Reality is a different, and more uncertain, prospect. The reality is that two years from now, all the ballyhooed prospects may suck, or have gotten hurt, or have decided to move to Idaho to become potato farmers and we could be facing a future that’s somehow more bleak than the present.
And sure, all the principals involved will have been fired and possibly drawn-and-quartered in the plaza of Bravesville or whatever they plan to call the area around SunTrust Park, which will be a dandy day for all. But you, John Q. Fan, will have nothing to show for the grand experiment.
What to Read
If I continue in this vein for much longer, this segment will be dubbed ‘Lies my land developer is telling me’, but this is too interesting to pass up: the Braves and Omni Hotels are partnering up for a 260-room, Bravesville-adjacent facility. The Omni is very swanky; my sister-in-law occasionally sneaks into the one in Nashville to use its rooftop pool. Just another in a long line of shoot-for-the-moon aspirations with the Braves future stomping grounds.
Stat o’ the Week
As fate might have it, I’m watching Julio Teheran right now against the Nationals, and it’s easy to see he’s leaning less on his fastball this year. That led me over to Brooksbaseball.com (indispensable if you like to nerd out over numbers), and sure enough, he’s throwing fastballs 35 percent of the time right now (lowest percentage of his career), while his sinker and slider usages are both hovering around 25 percent. While the fastball is hittable (disturbingly so, at a .321 clip and .714 slugging), the slider has become downright untouchable, with opponents hitting .087 and slugging .130 against that pitch.
If you only catch one game of the Reds series, make it…
Number one’s going head-to-head is usually a good time, even if one of them is Johnny Cueto. He and Teheran are set to square off Sunday (12:35 p.m. CT). Bonus points to the Saturday match-up, which involves Stults against former Brave Jason Marquis (who knew he was still around?) in a contest so vanilla it’s sponsored by Breyer’s.
Complementary Old-Timey Baseball Quote
“A baseball game is twice as much fun if you’re seeing it on the company’s time.” – William Feather, The Business of Life
Best Performance by a former Brave last week
Mark Teixeira hit five home runs in the last week, despite being very old and playing for the Yankees. This bit is going to run out of steam soon if Jason Heyward or someone more recently-departed doesn’t pick it up and as a Heyward fantasy owner, that doesn’t seem to be on the horizon.
Dan Uggla beat the Braves essentially by himself on Tuesday night, and Atlanta paid him to do it. He wins. I’d rather not talk about it. Frank Wren la vive.
About Colby Wilson
Colby Wilson is a free-lance columnist for the Clarksville Sports Network. He enjoys some of the finer things in life, but is at his most content lounging on the couch watching sports. If you like what he wrote, let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org; if you didn’t, keep it to yourself, okay?
Web Site: http://www.clarksvillesportsnetwork
SectionsAtlanta Braves, Baseball, Featured Story, MLB, Professional Teams, Sports, Sports Leagues
TopicsA.J. Pierzynski, Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta Braves, Braves, Cameron Maybin, Chris Johnson, Christian Bethancourt, Clarksville TN, Dan Uggla, Eric Stults, Freddie Freeman, Jace Peterson, Jason Grilli, Jason Heyward, Jason Marquis, Johnny Cueto, Jonny Gomes, Kelly Johnson, Major League Baseball, mallex Smith, Mark Teixeira, Matt Wisler, Mike Foltynewicz, MLB, New York Yankees, Nick Markakis, SunTrust Park, Trevor Cahill