If the doors close forever at Ted Turner Field and there is no one there to see it, does the season still happen? There have only been seven games, but 2016 is already a lost season for the Atlanta Braves. To be fair, not much was expected from the team this year, but early returns have been even worse than expected. Seven games and seven abysmal losses (and counting) later the Braves and their fledgling fan base are staring down the barrel at a dreadful season. The front office promised an improved team over last year’s 95-loss campaign, but the way things are looking this team should cruise past the 100 loss mark on their way to their worst season in nearly three decades.
The season is only nine days old and the Braves, or “Barves” as they are derisively called on social media, have been outscored 46-22. It has been a complete failure on every level of the organization starting with the absentee ownership group Liberty Media. Liberty Media has been a notoriously cheap group who runs the team like a business and doesn’t care about the product on the field as long as they turn a profit. Further emphasizing this point was the announcement last fall that Liberty Media will be offering fans an opportunity to purchase stock in the team in the near future. Talk about a buy low opportunity.
Moving on down the line, the front office has put together a hodgepodge major league roster after a series of trades in an effort to build toward the future. Mix in the bumbling managerial skills of Fredi Gonzalez and the Braves have constructed the perfect powder keg for a team implosion.
The team ERA is an embarrassing 6.67 to go along with an unsightly 1.74 WHIP and the starting rotation has produced just two quality starts in the first seven games. The most shocking number from the pitching side is the 32 walks allowed, which includes back-to-back nine walk games against the St. Louis Cardinals over the weekend. The team’s defense has offered the struggling pitching staff no help as they are accounting for an error per game on average. The defensive issues have been accentuated by Erick Aybar’s poor play at shortstop. After years of watching the wizardry of Andrelton Simmons, Aybar appears to have the agility and range of the Great Sphinx.
Rest assured, the offense has contributed their fair share to an 0-for start to the season. As a team, the Braves are batting .206, slugging .299 while averaging three runs per game. The Braves offense as a whole has yet to produce a pinch hit, and has scored all of one run this season after the seventh inning. The team hit two home runs on Opening Day, and in the subsequent six games they have accounted for a lone round-tripper. This team is devoid of offensive talent and simply has not been able to compensate for the shortcomings of the pitching staff. The Braves offense and pitching is really a match made in the basement of the NL East.
The injury bug also has made an early visit to an already talent-deficient roster. Leadoff man and center fielder Ender Inciarte injured his hamstring in the third game of the season and was placed on the disabled list. Promising rookie reliever Daniel Winkler also suffered a devastating arm injury as he fractured elbow throwing a pitch on Sunday. Winkler had been a real bright spot this spring and in early game action as a Rule 5 player returning from Tommy John surgery. His injury has certainly cast a dark cloud over an already dreary clubhouse.
The system-wide failure begs the question, where do they go from here? The major league season is a most unforgiving grind which can cause even the most talented teams to experience a swoon. What does a team do when faced with 162 games of swooning. The most optimistic fans could argue the Braves have played the Washington Nationals and Cardinals over the first seven games, both teams expected to battle for a playoff berth. This is true and surely it will get easier from here, while the Braves can take solace they will have 18 games against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The remaining 155 games of the Atlanta Braves season could be summarized by a line sung by the popular southern rock band, Drive-By Truckers, “So I’ll meet you at the bottom if there really is one – they always told me when you hit it you’ll know it.” It’s scary to think, the 2016 Atlanta Braves likely have not yet hit rock bottom.