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Succeeding or Failing

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In the last few weeks as the Braves have sputtered about, losing two straight series to sub-.500 teams, there has been a lot of blame being thrown about, and a lot of fingers being pointed and names being dragged in the mud. The players are just beginning this phase, but many fans have been looking to blame someone for weeks (if not months). When a team is losing like the Braves have been losing no one is spared the sword. Even the stalwarts of the franchise, Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz, have been victims of the fans wanting to affix blame for the Braves' recent demise, but are they the ones to blame?

It seems that the GM, John Schuerholz, has certainly done all he can to deal the Braves a hand they can win with. He may have been the one who signed Mark Redman and Craig Wilson before the start of the season, but he was also the one to let them go when they failed to perform as expected. In response to the team's flat play through the middle summer months, Schuerholz went out and acquired a premier slugger to plug the first base hole which had been an offensive void for the team the entire season. In total, the Braves GM has made five trades since the start of the season, all in an effort to put together a team that can win.

The other target of criticism for the Braves failures has been Bobby Cox. Believe it or not, some people are calling for Cox's head because of how the team has been playing lately. At least publicly, Cox himself sometimes seems to be devoid of answers to his team's struggles, but can we truly pin the losses suffered lately on the shoulders of Bobby Cox? He's made moves in the past that some have questioned, and certainly this year there have been some moves that may not make sense to everyone, but can one of the winningest managers of all time really be the culprit of the Braves' struggles?

The idea for this post came about in part from an article by Buster Olney on the World Wide Leader that spoke to the way in which the Yankees and Brian Cashman handled the adversity they went through at the beginning of the year.

Cashman had long been peppered with inquiries from other teams about [rookie pitcher Phil] Hughes. "We're not going to move him," Cashman replied. "He's part of the group that will either succeed or fail with us."

Now we certainly haven't taken the road the Yankees have this year by sticking with their players, but then we were not as well put together as they were to begin with. They have also had their two best pitching prospects in a decade ascend to their major league club, while we have had to cycle through the disappointments of Davies, Reyes, and others.

What I really take from that quote by the Yanks GM is that the Braves too will succeed or fail with the personnel they have right now. There are no more Teixeira's out there to acquire; there are no Joba-esque rookies to call up from the minors. The team we have now is the team we are stuck with for the rest of the year; for better or worse. To that end we can't really blame Schuerholz - he's made the trades to make us better. We can't blame Cox - he's doing the same thing he did during "14 straight." If there is anyone to blame, if blame is really the appropriate thing, then it's the guys out there who are either succeeding or failing. And it's not any one player, because while Andruw has often been a dud, he still can't fill a spot in the pitching rotation.

The most frustrating part of the recent months has been that this team can succeed, and should succeed, but they just haven't been doing so. Will this team succeed? We're about to find out in the next two weeks. If we keep playing the way we have been, then we're out of it. If we can play like the team that went 16-and-9 in April, then we've got a shot. The next 12 days will tell us one way or another. With six games against the Mets and three against the Phillies we will either be within striking distance of the postseason or within striking distance of the Marlins and Nationals. Grab your remote, grab your antacid, grab your groin, and hold on tight, now it really gets interesting.