Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Mark Bradley today lamented the panic that seems to be engulfing the Braves clubhouse:
I’m seeing something I never thought I’d see from the Braves. I’m seeing
desperation — in May, no less.
I’m seeing the organization that has made its reputation on playing from
behind acting as if it can fall no farther behind. Indeed, John Smoltz said
there’d have been no coming back had the Braves lost Sunday to drop 10
games behind. Since when did 10 games back after 31 games played become
the threshold of elimination? Since when did a 10-game lead become
insurmountable where a nine-game bulge apparently is not?
So when is it too early to panic? How far behind can a team fall and still reasonably consider itself to remain in the race?
The Braves trailed the Giants by 10 on July 22, 1993 — after 97 games, as opposed to 31 — and won the West. But that was a different Braves team. That team had a young John Smoltz. This team has an old Smoltz. That team had a young Chipper Jones. This team has an old Chipper. That team had Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Fred McGriff, Deon Sanders and Ron Belliard. This team has Jorge Sosa, John Thompson, Ryan Langerhans and an underachieving Marcus Giles.
Maybe most importantly, that 1993 Braves team had Leo Mazone. Now Mazone is coaching the Orioles.
Interestingly, though, it doesn’t seem to be doing the Orioles much good. From today’s Washington Post:
Sometimes a slump is a mystery. For the Orioles, the reason
they have lost 12 of their last 16 games and now stand at
15-19 is all too obvious: Their pitching rotation has been healthy.
Daniel Cabrera, Erik Bedard, Kris Benson, Rodrigo Lopez and Bruce
Chen — the five men who, under the tutelage of new Orioles pitching
coach Leo Mazzone, were supposed to be the strength of the team –
have not missed a start this season. Their combined ERA is an
atrocious 5.88, with no one lower than Bedard’s undistinguished 4.54.
Will the Orioles pitching ever come around? Will the Braves recover to win the NL East for a 17th straight season?