Mention the Atlanta Braves and one is likely to think of Bobby Cox, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Chipper Jones as well as their 14 consecutive division titles, five NL pennants and a World Series title in 1995.
Right now those days seem so far away as the team lost its 10th consecutive game. The Braves had a 2-1 lead against the Washington Nationals in the 9th but couldn’t hold it and lost in extra innings.
There was a time when the Braves appeared to have a chance to contend in the NL East this season. On June 21st, the Braves had a 35-35 record. That doesn’t look particularly impressive, but they had just swept the New York Mets and were 1.5 games back of the Metropolitans and 2 games back of the Nats. Since the summer solstice, the Braves have gone 19-46. Since the All-Star Break, the Braves are 12-34. The Braves are only a game ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies for last place in the NL East and the worst record in MLB. Regardless of where they finish, the Braves are on their way to having their worst season in 25 years.
It was right after the All-Star Break that Braves GM John Hart extended the contracts of manager Fredi Gonzalez and his coaching staff through next season. If the Braves are committed to Gonzalez and his coaching staff then that probably means there will be a significant player overhaul. Not that there hasn’t been one already. Remember that the Braves traded Justin Upton and Craig Kimbrel to the San Diego Padres on the eve of Opening Day. They also traded Justin Heyward to the Cardinals although they receive Shelby Miller in return and he has been their best pitcher.
Gonzalez succeeded Cox as manager in 2011. That year the Braves collapsed at the end of the year and missed the post-season. No one remembers this because the Red Sox had an even bigger collapse. The Braves did reach the post-season in 2012 and 2013, but took a big step backwards last year with the regression accelerating this in the second half of this season.
The Braves are pinning their hopes on 30-year old Cuban infielder Hector Olivera whom the Dodgers couldn’t wait to get rid off at the trade deadline after signing him for $62.5 million over six years just four months earlier. They are also in the midst of building a new, taxpayer financed ballpark after less than 20 years of playing at Turner Field which is due to open in 2017.
I have a feeling that things are going to get a lot worse for the Braves before they get better.