They were 42-42 with less than a week to go before the All-Star break, but the Braves’ season took a sharp turn south soon after and they’ve never recovered, with injuries triggering we’re-out-of-it trades and the won-lost record predictably plummeting at alarming speed.
Since reaching the 84-game mark with a .500 record, the Braves had gone 12-30 before Wednesday night’s series finale against the Rockies, including 3-11 in their past 14 games. With the Braves coming off an 0-7 road trip, it wasn’t surprising that announced attendance was below 14,000 for each of the first two games of the Rockies series, and there were perhaps half that many actually in the ballpark.
Meanwhile, the third-place Braves were 15 ½ games behind first-place New York and 10 behind second-place Washington before Wednesday. They were only three games ahead of the lowly Marlins and four ahead of the last-place Phillies, whose 50-76 record was the worst in the majors before Wednesday.
Yes, it’s been rough for a team not at all accustomed to being irrelevant in the standings long before the calendar even turned to September. But the Braves are committed to this rebuilding – or revamping, or retooling, or whatever they call it – and that means short-term pain for what they hope will be long-term gain.
“We knew when we made those deals (trading away players for prospects in late July), and guys get hurt — you’ve got to fight your way home,” Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said. “And it’s going to be tough. We play the Cubs, and we’re going to have the Mets, clubs that are playing for something. It’s going to be good for some of our guys to get the feel of what it is. But at the end of it, we’re going to have to be ‘game on.’ Because I can remember being, for years, being that club that, you kind of come in and circle that club that’s wounded a little bit. But there it is. Here we are.”
Hart and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez were asked if there were any concern over younger Braves possibly developing a “loser’s mentality” and going through the motions at times, perhaps accepting defeat from being around it so much in the second half of the season.
“That’s unacceptable,” said Gonzalez, adding that he hasn’t sensed it being a problem or becoming one. “If you’ve got a chance to win a game, you’ve got to win it. You never want that (loser’s) mindset. You’ve still got to develop the mindset of winning. If I see (anything but that) I will take care of it myself. That’s my job.”
Hart said, “I’ve been with a lot of clubs that go into the break 20-25 games over .500 and heading to the playoffs, but probably had as much fun (with this) club in the first half, because of the way these guys played. We were playing right at .500 (through 84 games), when people probably thought we’d be more like we are now. I think obviously we’ve had some injuries, we weren’t (deep) enough to overcome them. We’ve made a lot of trades. It’s not even the club that it was a month ago.
“But with that said, the one thing that Fredi and I have talked about, and the coaches and I have talked about – the energy level, not accepting defeat. We picked up an Edwin Jackson — we’re trying to (make sure), when we go in to play the tougher teams, that we’re going to be in the game. There’s enough makeup and character on this club that that one doesn’t bother me. It’s effort level, playing the game the right way, playing to win, not being happy when you lose. I feel that’s still the m.o. of this team.”