Atlanta’s 2011 season can only be classified as a disappointment. The September collapse still feels like a fresh wound, and the 0-4 start to the 2012 season is a handful of salt. The front office didn’t make any big moves over the offseason to right the ship, probably because they believe that the players we have now can get the job done, which I buy into as well. Honestly, I was feeling very optimistic going into opening day. I figured we could take two of three from the Mets. Now I don’t know what to think.
On Friday, some friends and I watched the Yankees start their season against the Rays. In the first inning, Tampa Bay took a 4-0 lead on a monster grand slam. The Yankees fans in the room weren’t really disheartened, and when the Yankees tied the game a few innings later, then took the lead, my friends weren’t even surprised. One of them said, “That’s the good thing about being a Yankees fan. No game is ever out of reach.” (Even though the Yankees lost that game, and were swept, just like the Bravos.) That must be an amazing feeling. On the other hand, any time a team scores a run against the Braves, the rest of the game feels like a lost cause.
Hopefully Chipper’s return and playing some games at home will revitalize the team, but if we continue struggle a lot of the blame is going to be on Fredi Gonzalez. But don’t worry: Fredi has a plan. He hasn’t explicitly outlined this plan for the media, but I can glean the basic points through his actions thus far this year.
First, Fredi has the perfect scheme to prevent another epic end-of-the-season collapse. It’s simple: don’t build a lead. If the team is behind the wild-card contenders by ten games for most of the season, there’s no chance for a collapse. Fredi figures losing the first four games just help put us in position for a comeback.
Another mistake Fredi made last year was overworking the bullpen, especially the “Oventribel” trio. To solve this problem, Fredi uses old, washed up starters as middle-inning relief pitchers in tight, critical situations. So what if they give up a few runs every game? At least our star relievers will be well rested.
Have you ever heard of “muscle confusion?” It’s an exercise theory that says you need to mix up your workout routine to keep your muscles guessing. It’s supposed to make you really strong. Fredi’s adapted this idea, except he calls it “player confusion.” See, he takes players like Pastornicky and Juan Francisco, rookies starving for in-game experience, and sits them for the third game of the season. And he’ll keep a close eye on Martin Prado to make sure he doesn’t get too comfortable in left field. Starting an inconsistent lineup is a surefire way to keep our players from getting into a pesky groove.
All jokes aside, our bad start can’t be blamed entirely on the manager. Sure, he’s made some mistakes, but the players have also just failed to perform in clutch situations. And our biggest problem, our starting pitchers failing to make it deep into the game, isn’t something Fredi can fix; correcting that problem is the responsibility to the pitching coach and the pitchers themselves. There’s no reason for any radical changes to be made just yet. We’ve only played a handful of games. Let’s take a two-game streak into the home opener and then sweep the Brewers. If we can do that, maybe we can all forget about this season’s miserable beginning.