Last night was another rough night for our Braves as they extended their losing str-- Wait, they won? Wow, they actually won! Last night was no optical illusion, folks: The Braves ended a nine-inning game with more runs than the other team. Hector Olivera led the way for the Braves, as he went 2-5 with four RBI, including a massive home run. All of this happened in front of the smallest crowd in Citizens Bank Park history. Welcome to the life of two teams in the "race" for the #1 pick in next season's draft.
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Despite the fact that the Braves are currently mired in one of their worst runs during a single season since the 1980s, the organization is still extremely bullish about their future, and assistant GM John Coppolella made that very clear during his interview with the AJC's David O'Brien. Coppy expects that the Braves will indeed hit their target of being a relevant team by 2017, and he also tried to convince some jaded fans to keep the faith while the team builds towards that goal.
Q. What should Braves fan know to make them feel better about the future?
A. What they should know about the future is, look at the Kansas City Royals, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Houston Astros, and the Chicago Cubs, and look at what they did and how long it took them to rebuild. And we’re following a more aggressive path than what they did and are hoping to get this reset in the right way sooner and with more impact."
Q. Are you fully aware of how much this second-half collapse has alienated some Braves fans?
A. Yes, I get a lot of hate email. You hear a lot of comments. There’s a lot of guys that say they don’t read stuff (criticism), but I do read stuff. Look, I’ve been on every road trip. I’m here after every game. And it’s hard. I’ve been a winner my whole life, too. I was with the New York Yankees for seven years, we won the AL East every year. And when I was here (with the Braves), we had a lot of winning seasons. But what we’re doing is about this: When John Schuerholz took over the Braves, they won 14 straight NL East titles. Since John Schuerholz left, the Braves won one NL East title in 2013. We were facing a lot of free agents (to be) and a really poor farm system. We didn’t want to end up with a new ballpark coming, with a fan based used to winning — that should see a good team, that has that right – we didn’t want to end up where it’s a five- to seven-year rebuild. With all the stuff that we were facing here, we did what we felt was in the best long-term interests of the Atlanta Braves. Is it painful now? ... It’s painful. Every day. But we’ll get through this year and we’ll stick to the plan, and we’ll get better next year and even better the year after that.
One of the biggest surprises of this season has been the production of A.J. Pierzynski, who's actually done a good enough job considering that he was signed to be a backup. While he admitted that the Braves' current run of form "sucks," he definitely hasn't been one of the reasons behind the rot.
The Braves have discussed the possibility of trying to re-sign Pierzysnki, and the catcher has indicated he’d like to come back for a second season. He could pass Bench on the hits list next season.
"Well, hopefully we’ll get a chance to witness it, because he’s been good," Gonzalez said.
It’s been quite a change from last winter, when some in the front office and coaching staff were a bit leery about signing Pierzynski because of his reputation for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time – to opponents and to teammates. In the first weeks of spring training he drew praise from some of those same people, pleasantly surprised by how well he worked with the team’s pitchers and the effort he made to be a leader and an integral part of the team.
The one constant in this world that we live in is change -- unless you're Shelby Miller, then it appears that the one constant in his life right now is being let down by his teammates during his starts. However, a lot has changed in the sports world during this horrid streak of his, and the people over at The Sporting News actually came up with 19 things that have happened in the sports world during Miller's streak. This includes all six no-hitters in baseball this season, four cycles in baseball, and a horse winning the Triple Crown. The world just keeps on a-spinnin'.
One of the biggest controversies in baseball this season has to do with Matt Harvey and his innings limit. After he previously said that he didn't believe in innings limits, Harvey did an about face and said that he would adhere to an innings limit. However, he did another about face and said that he'd pitch in the Postseason (assuming that the Mets make it). However, there are rumors floating around that he'd be limited to 60 pitches during any Postseason appearances, which would nearly defeat the purpose of even pitching in that situation. However, the Mets haven't come up with a plan yet, so who knows what'll happen here.
Meanwhile, the other team in the NL East divisional title race is busy grumbling about fan support. Jonathan Papelbon criticized the fans after Friday night's game against the Braves, and Bryce Harper called out the fans for leaving early during their loss to the Mets on Monday. It sure seems like their priorities are in the right place!