'Darn good season' ends early for the Atlanta Braves

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ATLANTA — For most of the season, the Atlanta Braves were overachievers.

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Atlanta's Brian McCann argues with umpire Bill Miller after striking out in Monday's loss to Los Angeles. McCann, who will be a free agent, might have played his final game as a Brave.  DANNY MOLOSHOK/ASSOCIATED PRESS
DANNY MOLOSHOK/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Atlanta's Brian McCann argues with umpire Bill Miller after striking out in Monday's loss to Los Angeles. McCann, who will be a free agent, might have played his final game as a Brave.

They lost seven players to season-ending injuries. Two more key players batted under .200. Even with all that, the Braves managed to win 96 games and capture their first division since 2005.

But once October arrived, it was the same ol’ story.

Another postseason disappointment.

The Braves haven’t won a postseason series since 2001, their streak of eight consecutive losses now the second-longest in baseball history to the Chicago Cubs, who dropped 10 series in a row between 1910 and 1998, according to STATS LLC.

“A lot of good stuff happened,” manager Fredi Gonzalez insisted after the season ended Monday night in the NL Division Series with a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“A lot of guys participated in the 96-win season. It’s going to be one of those seasons that you’re not going to appreciate for about a couple of weeks, and then you say, ‘You know what? It was a pretty darn good team, a pretty darn good season.’ ”

Indeed, there are plenty of reasons for the Braves to be hopeful.

First baseman Freddie Freeman had an MVP-type season. Young pitchers Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran took the lead in the starting rotation, especially after Tim Hudson went down with a broken ankle. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons could be in line for a Gold Glove. Evan Gattis emerged as one of the NL’s top rookies. Closer Craig Kimbrel had another dominant season.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen during the off-season, but I’m already looking forward to spring training,” Freeman said. “Hopefully we can start preparing over again with these same guys. I think we’re really close.”

But the postseason has been a huge stumbling block.

Since winning the NL pennant in 1999, the Braves are 13-30 in playoff games – with only one victory in 11 postseason series during that span.

While the players on this team had nothing to do with most of those October failures (catcher Brian McCann and Hudson were the only holdovers from Atlanta’s last division champion in 2005), it has become the defining theme of the franchise going back to the early 1990s, when the Braves managed only one World Series title during a remarkable run of 14 consecutive division titles.

“All the regular-season accomplishments, those don’t count anymore once you get to the postseason,” outfielder Jason Heyward said.

With so many young players, the Braves aren’t headed for a major overhaul during the offseason. McCann and Hudson are the only prominent players eligible for free agency.

The Braves may look to get a hometown discount from the 37-year-old Hudson to return for another year, which would give the team a much-needed veteran among the 20-something starters.

McCann is another story. While he grew up in the Atlanta area and has been with the Braves his entire career, it seems likely he’ll be playing elsewhere next season. Gattis’ natural position is catcher, and he showed plenty of promise with 21 homers and 65 RBI.

After going 0 for 13 in the playoffs, including four strikeouts in the finale, McCann acknowledged it might be his farewell game in a Braves uniform.

A more pressing issue for the Braves is how to deal with B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla. The two highest-paid players on the team struggled through miserable seasons.

Upton, in the first season of a five-year, $75.25 million contract, batted .184 with nine homers and 26 RBI. He lost his starting job but there’s not much the Braves can do except hope for dramatic improvement in 2014, given he’s still owed nearly $60 million.

Uggla is even trickier situation. His numbers have gotten progressively worse in three years with the Braves, plummeting to .179 with a franchise-record 171 strikeouts this season.

Uggla is still owed $13 million over each of the next two years, so it’s unlikely he could be moved in a trade and it’s debatable if the Braves are willing to take such a big financial hit to get him off the roster.

PLAYOFF WOES

The Braves have lost six consecutive NL Division Series dating back to 2002. They also lost the NL Wild-Card Game in 2012 and the NLCS in 2001.

YEAROPPONENTRESULT
2013DodgersLost in 4
2010GiantsLost in 4
2005AstrosLost in 4
2004AstrosLost in 5
2003CubsLost in 5
2002GiantsLost in 5
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David Parker
7923
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David Parker 10/09/13 - 11:22 am
0
0
chop chop

We are stuck with BJ and Dan, make some lemonade guys. C'mon Spring is right around the corner.

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 10/09/13 - 05:19 pm
0
0
Let's
Unpublished

look at this Braves thing realistically: 47 years in Atlanta, 1 world championship, a history of wonderful trades- Lowe, Uggla and B.J. Upton, Frank Wren who wouldn't know talent from fish bait and 46 years of "wait until next year". Braves, Falcons, Hawks, Flames of yesteryear, WNBA franchise and futility into the next millenium. Atlanta can make all of the excuses it continues to use but the fact remains, they're losers in the end.

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