Cleat Geeks

Bravos Buzz

It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn

john hartThe 2015 Atlanta Braves season was a blazing dumpster fire. They finished the 2015 season dead last in every offensive statistical category that fans care about (runs [573], RBIs [548], and home runs [100]). Yikes! Not to mention the fact that they had the fourth worst team-ERA [4.41] and the third worst win percentage [.414] in the Majors. Their 67­­–95 record was the worst record the club has posted since it went 65­­–97 in 1990 — in ’91 they went from worst-to-first and proceeded to dominate the NL for the rest of the decade.

The train wreck that was the 2015 season conjured a dark, dark cloud over Braves Country. Many fans  have begun fearing that their Bravos may turn into the Miami Marlins. After all, before last year the Braves had not suffered consecutive losing seasons since ’89–’90. People in ATL are beginning to get antsy.

How long will it be before the Bravos can return to their winning ways?

1995_World_Series_Braves_Win

Although the Braves have regularly registered winning seasons since ’91, they have not been to the World Series since 1999. Most likely, that won’t be changing any time soon due to the absence of talent currently on the 25-man roster.

Basically, the Braves’ 25-man roster is made up of a few former All-Stars who are now well past their primes (such as P Jason Grilli, C A.J. Pierzynski, OF Michael Bourn, and OF Nick Swisher), some skilled but inexperienced young players (OF Ender Inciarte, 2B Jace Peterson, SS Daniel Castro, and P Julio Teheran), and only one bona fide superstar (1B Freddie Freeman). With that shoddy roster, there is virtually no hope that the 2016 Braves can even make the playoffs, much less earn a spot in the World Series. Honestly, the team will be lucky to avoid its third straight losing season as it is currently constructed.

coppolella

John Coppolella – GM of the ATL Braves

If Braves fans are wondering why their beloved team had such a bad year and why their Bravos are currently stuck in rebuilding mode, all those fans need to do is look at the transactions that the Braves as an organization have been making as of late (especially over the last two seasons) — both in the front office and on the field.

The front office changes included the firing of GM Frank Wren following a disappointing 2014 season that saw the Braves droop to under .500 in the win/loss column for the first time since that injury plagued 2008 season. The organization brought in John Hart to be the team’s President of Baseball Operations before the start of the 2015 season and promoted John Coppolella from Assistant GM to General Manager. The new management brought with it a new strategy in terms of team building, and it certainly has not translated to instant success on the field as of yet. Quite the opposite actually, as is illustrated by the abysmal 2015 season.

Heyward got delt before the 2015 season began.

Heyward got delt before the 2015 season began.

On top of being upset over back-to-back losing seasons, Braves fans are not too pleased with the multitude of trades that Hart and Coppolella have been making recently. Hart and Coppolella have been making more deals than the Wolf of Wall Street at a yacht club, and in the process they have shipped a lot of star power out the door. They began stripping down the roster as soon as Hart took over. First, they got rid of OF Jason Heyward, an All-Star and winner of multiple Gold Glove Awards. Then, they traded away the Upton brothers, along with the best closer in baseball at the time, Craig Kimbrel. For those of you who are counting, that totals four household names gone before the beginning of the 2015 season. Hang on, it gets worse. Once the dreadful 2015 season finished, they shipped out a few more stars: Gold Glove SS Andrelton Simmons, OF Cameron Maybin, and P Shelby Miller — Miller was the only Braves player to make the 2015 All-Star Team, imagine that. Reading the Braves’ transactions report lately has been like watching Game of Thrones, they just keep killing all the stars of the show off. Needless to say, the 2016 season is shaping up to be a very depressing one for sure… winter is coming.

However, there is hope on the horizon for this ball club. There is a silver lining to all this doom and gloom.

The Braves will be opening their new field, SunTrust Park, in 2017. They know that a shiny new ballpark will effectively get people’s butts in those seats when it first opens simply by virtue of it being brand new, but in order to keep the fans coming back to the ballpark game-after-game and season-after-season, they must find a way to put a winning product on the field.

And thus… the rebuilding years. They are a necessary evil.

Yes, Braves fans do want to see their team compete for a playoff spot. And no, they haven’t liked watching some of their favorite players don new jerseys for different teams, but the plan that Hart and Coppolella are laying out is a logical one. The fans will eventually come to terms with it and get behind it.

By trading away all of those stars, the front office has opened up a lot of room in their player salary budget, which gives them flexibility in the free agent market moving forward. Also, and perhaps more importantly, they have acquired a ton of very highly touted young prospects. In fact, their aggressive campaign to add talent to their farm system caused Bleacher Report to rank their farm system as the third best in Major League Baseball entering the 2016 season.

Dansby Swanson was the #1 overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft

Dansby Swanson was the #1 overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft.

Four out of their current top five prospects were recently acquired via trade, including Dansby Swanson — the super talented SS out of Vanderbilt who was the number one overall pick in the 2015 Draft. For every star they traded away, they brought in two or three prospects who could potentially one day step up and either match or surpass the production of the exited star. Tyrell Jenkins (who came in via the Heyward trade), Max Fried (Justin Upton trade), Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis (both via Simmons trade), Ian Krol (Maybin trade), and Aaron Blair (Shelby Miller trade) are all pitchers who may be making significant contributions to the Braves in coming years. The front office is hoping that those players will be able to fill the voids left by Craig Kimbrel and Shelby Miller. Braves fans are hoping for the same.

So how long will it be before the Bravos can return to their winning ways? We know it won’t be in 2016, but maybe we will start to see them make strides in the right direction once SunTrust Park opens in 2017. Who knows… Maybe they, like the 2015 Cubs, can take a bunch of young talent and make a serious run in the playoffs. With all of that talent now in the farm system, the future for this club over the long haul is undeniably bright. Braves fans may have to endure one more year of struggles, but then they can get ready to enjoy the dawning of some sunny seasons ahead at SunTrust Park.

2 Comments

  1. Richard S.

    January 21, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Great article, J-Dub! Keep it up!

    • Josh Watford

      January 21, 2016 at 10:33 pm

      Thanks bro! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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