Fat Lady Warming Up Her Mic For The Braves

July 29, 2008 by Tom Ferda 

Published in Baseball Digest Daily July 29, 2008

Originally from Detroit, Tom is a Los Angeles based sportswriter. His material has been published in several newspapers including The New York Daily News, Detroit Free Press and Washington Times. Magazines that have published his features include Men’s Book, The Hockey News (Canada), USA Hockey Mag, 360 Hawks and 360 Thrashers. For clippings or inquiries contact him at tom@tomferda.com


Fat Lady Warming Up Her Mic For the Braves

Written by TOM FERDA

ATLANTA – At All-Star break the Atlanta Braves were poised to make a run. Their schedule allowed them a realistic opportunity to create a tight, four-way race in the NL East.

Being in the hunt for a playoff spot would put the Braves in the position most analysts expected them to be in throughout this season. Being in the hunt could also convince Braves GM Frank Wren to stop accepting calls inquiring about a Mark Teixeira trade.

On July 16 with the Braves sitting 6.5 games behind first and the last-place Nationals coming to town, it wasn’t time for the Fat Lady to sing just yet.

A lot has occurred since the Braves laced up their spikes and took the field after All-Star break and most of the news is bleak.

The underachieving Braves lost the first series after break to the overachieving Nats, allowing one of the worst offensive teams in MLB to score 29 runs at Turner Field.

Scurrying out of Atlanta with their tail between their legs, the Braves went on the road where they regrouped and won a three-game series against the division rival Florida Marlins.

Although the Braves lost just one of those games, their biggest loss occurred during their Game 3 win when All-Star third baseman Chipper Jones strained a hamstring hustling to beat out a throw to first base.

Taking the momentum from their road series victory in Florida, the Braves continued on to the City Of Brotherly Love for their much anticipated series against another NL East division rival, the Philadelphia Phillies; a series they would have to play without Jones who was still nursing his hammy.

Citizens Bank Park is known as a hitter’s ballpark and is an intimidating place to take the mound, even for seasoned veterans. That didn’t seem to faze Braves rookie phenomenon Jair Jurrjens who started Game 1 and hurled eight innings of shutout ball, leading his Braves to an 8-2 win for his 10th victory of the season.

In Game 2, capitalizing on the hitter’s park theory, the Braves scored nine runs in the top of the fourth inning to take a 9-3 lead and were primed to win back-to-back road series for the first time all season.

The Phillies had other plans. They answered with seven in the bottom of the fifth to take a 10-9 lead and steal that game from the Braves.

The Braves bats stayed alive for most of that Phillies series. Offensively, they averaged nine runs per game, scoring a total of 27 runs in the three games . . . ┬ábut that wasn’t enough; not when your bullpen squandered every lead they are handed.

The Braves blew dominating leads of five and six runs during Game 2 and 3, their bullpen collapsing both times and causing the Braves to surrender the most important series of the year. They were clearly in position to return home in the thick of the NL East playoff race.

Instead, the Braves returned home for seven games against tough opponents, the Cardinals and red-hot Brewers, and will be playing without their All-Star cast.

Brian McCann suffered a concussion during Game 3 from a collision at the plate and is listed game-to-game while Jones and No. 1 starter Tim Hudson were placed on the 15 day DL beginning July 28th.

This is deflating news. Even the most optimistic should consider throwing in the towel.

There is a window of opportunity in sports and the Braves window is slamming shut. After this past week of blown opportunities, GM Wren is expected to not only answer the phone when it rings, but also place a few calls of his own.

With the deadline looming just hours away, Teixeira should be packing his bags. And as for The Fat Lady . . . it’s time for her to warm up her mic.

Contact Tom via email: tom@tomferda.com
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