The phalanx of Division flags circling Turner Field’s eaves, cutting across a mind boggling decade and a half swath of uninterrupted dominanance, seem to be slipping further and further into cob-webbed obscurity, representing a bygone era as mysterious and dated as Stonehenge. The white, cursive capital A, which ubiquitously jumped onto baseball caps across the country during the Tomahawk fervor of the 90’s, now may as well be Scarlet. The 2009 season, has been marred by the same agonizing ineptitude as 2008, which itself was a re-run of 2007. The Braves keep removing their thumb from one hole in the dike to plug another, when their purposes might best be served if they simply blew up the wall and faced the deluge before starting from scratch.
Frank Wren has done a commendable job: he is responsible for snatching the Braves’ best pitcher, Jair Jurrjens, he outright fleeced the Pittsburgh Pirates of their all-star center fielder, Nate McClouth, and most of the “marquee” pitchers Braves fans were thundering for in the off season, have been no better, and in some cases much worse than Derek Lowe. This season, like the last, began with reasonable hope. But the Braves simply cannot escape the black hole of mediocrity. Glaring problems are patched up, talented players are aquired according to needs, but as mightily as they try (I’d assert that some try more mightily than others) they are a tether ball, staked to the status quo. After being utterly demoralized by the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, the Braves bloggers seem to finally reflect a collective acknowledgement: that this is–like the Sports South ads have been warning us–our Atlanta Braves. We are only 62 games into the season, not even at the halfway point. But there are no signs that this team has any fight in them whatsoever. They are still failing to do the little things, like bunting and turning routine double plays, they have no pop in either corner of the outfield, and they are showing a galling lack of discipline at the plate. Rather than anxiously throwing money at a stop gap right fielder in July like a Wall Street bailout, the Braves should be allowed to fail so that a new foundation can be laid.
Braves fans, including myself, have a difficult time shining a light on our beloved team and accepting the fact that we aren’t very good. The Yankees don’t have a monopoly on baseball pride–after winning is imbued into the pedigree of any franchise, it is difficult to concede. But regardless of how many yellow flags hang above us in memory of past glory, we cannot move forward until we wave the white one.