The Atlanta Braves’ long nightmare is almost over. Wait, you forgot the Braves were still even playing? Admit it. Football season took your attention, and you gave up caring awhile ago.
This Sunday, the horrific year will conclude as the worst season since 1990. That’s 25 years. That’s an entire generation that has avoided a season like this. Most young people only know Atlanta as a winning organization, so this has been a shock for everyone.
No one expected things to be this bad. There’s little chance even the most positive Braves fan would have predicted a winning season, but no one could have thought it would be this awful, either.
The roster has changed dramatically since Opening Day, as only 11 players on the team April 6 in Miami are on the roster now. There have been trades -- five of them -- along with plenty of rookies. Sixteen players have made their big league debuts this season for Atlanta, with 13 being pitchers.
The Braves have used 60 players, the most in franchise history. The 2014 Braves used only 39 players the entire season. The 60 players are 10 more than the previous record, set with the 2007 Braves.
Atlanta’s bullpen has been a mess. Of those 13 rookie pitchers, nine have been relievers. It has been a revolving door the entire year. You can’t blame it on the Craig Kimbrel trade, made the day before the season started. Jason Grilli did fine as the closer before he was hurt in July, and Arodys Vizcaino has done well since then. It’s the middle relief that has been too scary to even watch.
The starting rotation has been in flux. Only Julio Teheran and Shelby Miller remain from the rotation the Braves started with, as Alex Wood and Eric Stults were traded and Trevor Cahill was released. We’ve seen talented young pitchers take over, and they’ve had their bumps and bruises like most young pitchers suffer through in year one.
Yes, Atlanta’s pitching has been an issue. The team ERA is the fourth-worst in baseball. The bullpen ERA is the worst in the game, while the starters have the seventh-worst in the sport.
But this team hasn’t hit. The Braves are last in the major leagues in runs scored. They were next-to-last in 2014 in runs scored. You can’t blame that on youth, like you can with the pitchers. This lineup is mostly full of veterans who simply have not been good enough.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez got a free pass for this season, but he’s on the shortest leash in baseball moving forward. The chances of Gonzalez making it to the new ballpark in 2017 are slim and none, as his bosses can’t be impressed with how the team has had a .299 winning percentage since his contract was extended.
Gonzalez is to blame for a lot of the issues. Sure, he has had a daily roster turnover, but how much has Gonzalez helped the process? Has he really helped with his handling of catcher Christian Bethancourt or his scheduled days off for the young players? At some point the front office must ask, “Can’t we do better than Gonzalez?”
This season was necessary, and while it has been painful the Braves will be better off in the long-term. They’ll have the second pick in the amateur draft next June, which will add another significant prospect to the organization. The farm system is a million times better now than it was 12 months ago, as many of the trades the front office has made will not show positive results for several years.
Let’s just be glad this season is almost over. Many of us gave up on watching regularly a long time ago anyway. But now the fun part can begin. This front office is far from finished, and there’s obviously a lot of work to do to get the Braves back on track.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.