|Point/Counterpoint: The Braves' Season is Done||| Print ||
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on May 09, 2008
The Braves' Season is Over - Daniel Paulling
I grew up watching the Atlanta Braves. It is a family tradition to cheer for them. That makes it all the harder to say this: Their 2009 season is over. Yes, over. I know the second week of May is early to write off any team, because injuries happen and teams get on streaks. But I’m here to tell you the Braves won’t be playing in the postseason, despite being only one game out in a competitive NL East.
Pitching wins. We all know that. Heck, even Joe Morgan knows that. The Braves are just short of it. Let’s just check out the starting rotation. John Smoltz missed time in spring training (don’t believe the joke that he didn’t want to dial it up) and the start of the year and currently because of his bum shoulder. The situation is so bad that he will likely return to the bullpen when he comes back. Mike Hampton is an injury waiting to happen, as soon as that strained pectoral heals up. (I’m cheering for Hampton, because of all the injuries. I’m just being realistic.) Tom Glavine looks finished, while Jo-Jo Reyes and Chuck James are just five-inning pitchers.
And with those starters leaving early, that leaves a weak bullpen exposed. The team lost ace relief pitcher Peter Moylan (90.0 IP last season with a 1.80 ERA) for the entire season. Rafael Soriano’s elbow isn’t getting any better, despite his receiving good news concerning his ligaments. Who knows when Mike Gonzalez will return or what to expect from him when he does?
I’m sure many of you are thinking that the Braves are only one game out in a winnable NL East. And that’s true. Too bad they can’t always play the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres every game. The Braves have struggled against the better teams and are just shining right now against the lower teams in the division. Of course, this could all change if the Braves go out and acquire a quality starter and upgrade a weak bullpen at the trade deadline.
I never write off the Braves lightly. In fact I usually wait until they are mathematically eliminated before I breathe that sigh of relief, but I certainly understand exactly where you are coming from. Sure they have had some key injuries, but this team has weathered that storm before. In the past they have replaced those players either from their minor league system or managed to come up with pieces via trade or free agency.
Admittedly the minor league system doesn’t have a lot of top Major League ready talent at the moment but the Braves could trade from strength and deal part of their top flight offense to create a bit of balance. Considering how undistinguished the NL East has been so far that wouldn’t exactly condemn this team to a finish behind the Mets and Phillies.
But their injuries have hurt their chances - especially if Smoltz really returns to the bullpen as everything seems to indicate. But Mike Hampton will be back as will Tom Glavine and the team could attempt to salvage guys like Matt Morris and Derrick Turnbow in order to shore up the pitching. It might not be great, but it could be workable.
Of course the Braves’ GM John Schuerholz usually finds a solution that is better than workable. This guy has worked magic since 1990 leading the Braves 14 playoff appearances in that time. He built this team to compete this year and he did it knowing that the pitching might be tenuous. Therefore it’s not hard to believe he has a plan.
And if bludgeoning the other team with offense doesn’t seem workable I wouldn’t be surprised if he manages to cobble together some sort of pitching staff. As long as the Mets and Phillies keep on stumbling the Braves can stay in the hunt.
It’s way too early to write off Atlanta.