HELP! I usually have some idea for a blog that turns into an analogy about something happening with our Atlanta Braves. Most of the time, it’s brilliant (ok, that’s a self assessment…but it’s an assessment none the less). I then roll into what I think the Bravos should do about issue “X” or player “Y”. But lately, I’m not feeling it. I’m not pumped to watch the games at night and I’m not hanging on every pitch. Maybe it’s because the Wildcard seems to be wrapped up. Maybe it’s because Atlanta’s chances to win the NL East are fading faster than jeans from Wall Mart. And this series with Philadelphia isn’t helping. The Braves look lost. They’re not firing on all cylinders. The Phillies score quickly then run and hide. It’s not fun to watch or write about. Now, I know what you’re saying. Vinnie, you’re dynamic and talented and I have a hard time believing you’re not motivated and inspired. And even if you’re not…you can do it, you’re awesome! Well, thanks. And while all of that may be true (I hope everyone denotes the sarcasm in those last comments), it’s just a battle for my passions right now. I still strongly believe the Braves can win the NLCS. I still think the Braves, currently constituted, can win it all. But my conviction is not as hearty as weeks previous. Some things bothering me:
- Martin Prado. I’m not sure what’s wrong with his play lately. My feeling is that he was a GREAT #2 hitter when he didn’t need to protect a very good #1 hitter. But with Michael Bourn getting on base and trying to manufacture scoring chances, Martin seems lost. And it’s spilling into his defensive play. I don’t think I would have ever said this, but Prado missed some balls that Chipper would have gotten to. Martin is not making plays that Chipper would. And Prado’s outfield play has been a bit pedestrian as well. He’s been the main cog for the Braves the last 2 years and he needs to regain his first half form for Atlanta to be successful.
- Right Field. I mean, WTF? Jeff Francoeur is my man, but I think he messed up that area at Turner Field for anybody now playing there. Jason Heyward, Jose Constanza, Matty Diaz, etc… Any team that is a contender has positions with big time “Big Boppers”. 1st Base and/or 3Rd Base. Left Field and/or Right Field. And oddly enough, 2nd Base. The Braves have Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla to fill in some of those spots. And Chipper, when healthy, is more than adequate at 3rd, even at his advanced age. But it’s the same old song for Atlanta at the corner outfield positions. No real power and/or dynamic players. Prado can get it back in Left, but I’m not sure about Right Field. Do the Braves currently have a player that is BETTER than Francoeur in Right? I’m not real sure they do.
- Starting pitching. OK, so Derek Lowe sucks. I think we all can agree on that. And with Tommy Hanson, I really feel it’s a crap shoot on his health and production. He’s like that crazy but funny friend you invite to a party. He most likely won’t show up, so don’t count on him. But if he does show, it’s a real nice surprise. JJ…let’s hope he gets going. Tim Hudson and the bullpen (if Scott Linebrink somehow misses the team bus) are solid and there are no worries there. And these youngsters. I feel like the super young Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran make a better wait staff at Chick-Fl-a than a MLB pitching staff. Don’t get it twisted, they’re AWESOME. But how good do you feel if the Braves really need them to start important games come post season? Not real good. But if Lowe and Hanson are the other options, maybe we cross our fingers.
- Brooks Conrad. Where the hell has this guy been? Fredi has played just about everyone on the bench, but you don’t see Conrad getting any real playing time. And his pinch hit appearances seems to be down as well. If Julio Lugo was a better option that Conrad, Brooks must have some awful breath or something to keep him riding the pine. Get him a Tic Tac, pronto.
- NSE (National So-Called Experts). I addressed these fools last week. But now I’m WORRIED because I may actually agree with them. If the playoffs began today, I’d have to take the Phillies and Brewers as favorites in the NL. And out of the 8 playoffs teams, the Braves MIGHT be ranked 7th or 8th. So while the thought of those slap nuts giving the Braves no credit drives me crazy, this the first time this year I actually think they’re on to something. And it’s not Roy Halladay’s jock strap.
- The City of Atlanta. I feel it, don’t you? Atlanta (and most of the US, save the Northeast) is slowly but surely flowing away from baseball to football season. When BOTH local sports talk shows spend 75-80% of airtime talking about college football and the Falcons, the Braves are becoming an afterthought. I think it’s imperative for a local team’s success to be tied to the amount of buzz coming from said team. And that buzz needs to translate to radio, TV and other mediums (such as the Super Colossal, Gigantically Impressive AtlantaBaseballTalk podcast…available on iTunes). So once the Braves are out of mind, it’s a wrap for the excitement in the city.
So don’t get me wrong, I’m really juiced about the post season. And I’ll be at the Ted like most of y’all that can get to the A.T.L. But I hope things get more exciting here in the next few weeks. Because when the biggest news about your team is them getting Matt Diaz back, that’s not something we can rally behind for long.
If you want more of my shenanigans during the week, follow me on Twitter @yourdailyvinnie. Thanks!