As I was ready to write off another bad loss, the Braves rallied for four runs in the 9th against the Marlins to steal the game tonight. Turns out Freddie Gonzalez picked up some things from Bobby after all – primarily, how to leave a pitcher in the game long enough to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Watching Kevin Gregg implode brought back so many Blaine Boyer moments for me. Or was it Manny Acosta……whatever. So congratulations to the Braves. Let’s see how this ‘momentum’ carries through this homestand.
I have been a Braves fan since I knew what it was to root for baseball. I grew up in Atlanta rooting for all my hometown teams, none more than the Braves. I wore number 3 as a little leaguer because Dale Murphy was and is my favorite player. His status as a Hall of Famer is a debate for another day. That being said, it bothers me deeply that as a fan who has suffered with this team for decades, as a fan who has celebrated their triumphs over the past 15 years, that somehow fans are not allowed to be dissatisfied with this current product. That we are somehow supposed to look at 15 years of relative success and ignore the disaster that has been this team for three years. That we as fans can not question the competence of Bobby Cox and his ability to lead. That we as fans can not express disappointment with one world championship over this run. It’s insulting to be considered a fair-weather fan for feeling this way.
I have seen this team lose 100 games. Lots. I can roll off names like Rufino Linares, Mike Lum and Andres Thomas. I went to Bruce Benedict’s camp for criminy sakes. I met Bob Horner there. He had a sweet perm. And there are so many people out there like me that never thought we would be back in this place. We had bought into the winning and change in philosophy. The organization and the ownership were supposed to be beyond this type of effort. This malaise. And yet here we are. On the precipice of winning maybe 72 games, if we are lucky.
But it’s time to take this team back. Shame on us for letting them tell us that 14 NL division championships are more important than 1 world championship. Shame on us for letting them tell us that there would be no change in ownership philosophies from Turner to Time Warner and now Liberty. Shame on us for not questioning Bobby Cox more in 1999 instead of 2008. Shame on us for letting them convince us that a starting rotation of two 40-year-olds and a guy who hadn’t pitched in 3 years was stable. And shame on us for letting them get away with throwing this season away on the excuse of injuries. This team was flawed long before players started going down and it starts at the top. Bobby Cox is the problem and he remains the problem. Now stories emerge that he is losing the clubhouse. The run is over and it is over in a massive display. We didn’t fight for the Wild Card, we simply disappeared. CBS Sportsline’s current power rankings have the Braves behind the Royals. It’s time to start over. And this goes with the whole operation. I’m crossing my fingers that Liberty does in fact unload the team in three years and some local owner comes in and brings the team back to prominence. That he unloads on Terry McGuirk for daring to suggest that it’s the fan’s fault for the Braves not spending more money on their payroll. Next on the list is the people who would rather spend $25 million on a big TV in the outfield than players to help strengthen this roster. As if people aren’t showing up because the TV isn’t nice enough. They say it is darkest before the light, and it seems pretty dim right now.