I get it. Trust me.
The Atlanta Braves let you down for seemingly the 20th straight year – actually the 18th, so close enough – and you're mad. Naturally, the object of your wrath has to be the manager.
After all, that goon Fredi Gonzalez cost your beloved Braves at least one more game with his shenanigans in the NLDS against the Dodgers. It's time – past time, really – for him to be gone.
Like many of you, I'm a Braves “lifer,” so listen to me when I say that it's not time for pitchforks and torches just yet.
First of all, let's look at the three years Gonzalez has been at the helm. After missing the postseason from 2006 to 2009 and a wild-card appearance in 2010, the Braves narrowly missed the playoffs in Fredi's first year.
But to make comparisons fair, just count that they finished in the top five teams in the National League.
You know how many teams can say that they've finished top-five in their league all three years? Three.
The Braves, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers. And just like the Braves didn't actually make it in 2011, the Cardinals wouldn't have made it last year if there was only one wild-card team.
This is where we pause to thank Bud Selig and whoever wrote the “infield fly rule.”
Not that I'm content just to make the party, but from near-miss to wild card to the first NL East championship since 2005, Fredi's making progress and consistently contending. Like very few other clubs are.
Still not convinced? Take a peek at the Opening Day roster.
The starting rotation, in alphabetical order, was Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran. You would've thought that any postseason success would hinge on those two veterans anchoring the rotation and providing stability under pressure. Yet Hudson went down with a gruesome ankle injury in late July, and Maholm wasn't even effective enough to make the postseason roster.
Then there's the bullpen. The “O'VentBrel” combination of Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel looked poised to man the last three innings yet again, even if Venters was on the 15-day disabled list to start the year. He had Tommy John surgery and missed the entire year. Around the same time, O'Flaherty underwent the same procedure after throwing only 18 innings this season. Long-relief man Christhian Martinez also went down before the All-Star break, and Jordan Walden was on and off the DL twice.
Rightfielder Jason Heyward, who sparked an offensive onslaught when Gonzalez moved him to the leadoff role, missed significant time twice with odd ailments, first with appendicitis and second with a pair of fractures in his jaw.
Starting catcher Brian McCann missed the first month of the season, and first baseman Freddie “MVFree” Freeman went down with an oblique injury early in the year.
Meanwhile the Braves' highest-paid players – BJ Upton and Dan Uggla, but you knew that – batted under .185 and struck out a combined 322 times.
And what did Gonzalez – often criticized for going too much by “the book” – do?
He tweaked the lineup until it worked, eventually batting his enormous rightfielder with a career batting average of .259 and on-base percentage of about .350 in the No. 1 spot and batting his home run leader – Justin Upton – second. He and general manager Frank Wren reportedly convinced Chris Johnson to hit more for contact than power, and the “throw-in” from the Justin Upton trade took a stranglehold on the third-base spot and nearly won a batting title.
He plugged guys into the bullpen, making the best every time a Luis Ayala couldn't go because of anxiety issues or a Cory Gearrin stopped being effective when he was needed in a bigger role. He handed the ball to Freddy Garcia in a clutch game, and he got more than anyone could've wanted out of the 37-year-old.
So excuse me if I won't ask for his head, just because he wouldn't throw Craig Kimbrel two innings in Game 4 of the NLDS.
I know Kimbrel was mad that he didn't get the ball. He's a 25-year-old athlete who can throw a baseball 101 miles an hour, if need be, so he has every right to be confident in his stuff. But if Kimbrel takes the mound and allows a run in the eighth, what do you do in the ninth?
Now, since the most Kimbrel has ever thrown is four outs, and that only a handful of times, you're so far out of the plan that you can't be comfortable with any other option. You want to give the ball to David Carpenter in a tie ball game, bottom of the ninth, with your season on the line? The same David Carpenter you didn't want pitching in the eighth when you had the lead?
I know we all want someone to blame, but sometimes you just lose. The Braves just lost.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.
Notice about comments: