The Braves and Reds square off this weekend in a four game series at Turner Field. Atlanta is coming into the series off of a couple of tough losses and snaps back to reality courtesy of the Mets and Nationals. The 10-11 Reds have not been playing great baseball recently, but they did manage to grab two of three from the lowly Brewers. Half of their wins have come against Milwaukee this year.
The Reds still have their offensive core players in Joey Votto and Todd Frazier. Votto has exhibited his typical brilliance so far with a .429 OBP and 7 home runs. Frazier has likewise been hitting at a fine clip. Add in Billy Hamilton’s ridiculous style of production (#speed #never #slumps) and the shocking revelation that has been Zack Cozart you have a Reds team with a decent ability to score runs. However, the offense as a whole ranks somewhere in the middle of league in just about every category. The pitching side of things is not much different. Aside from the team ace, Cueto, the Reds staff is and has been fairly mediocre. Cueto will throw against the struggling Teheran in game four, but the Braves begin series facing off against the back of the Reds rotation–which somehow includes Jason Marquis in the year 2015. Atlanta should not sleep on youngster Anthony DeSclafani, though. The Cincinnati newcomer is a ground ball specialist and the Braves are great at hitting ground balls.
That’s not entirely fair, the Braves offense has actually been producing lately. Scoring 33 runs in their past five games, Atlanta’s offense has surprised just about everybody. They aren’t winning games, but they are losing them in a far more spectacular fashion than most of us expected. The lineup will certainly regress–just as the bullpen has. This will only make the major problem for the Braves all the more evident: the pitching. It’s been bad. Teheran and Wood both had rough outings in Washington. Shelby Miller will look to stop that trend tonight. Miller has posted fairly consistent quality outings, so fans should be a little optimistic that he will be able to do just that. After Shelby, things get murky. With Cahill coming on in relief last night, the game two starter is left blank as this preview is being written. It is not likely that Fredi goes with somebody from the pen as that group is taxed enough as it is. Most likely a youngster like Foltynewicz will get the much-too-early call to face off against DeSclafani. After that, we’re back with Stults. Stults the boring, Stults the innings eater. He’s fine.
The main thing Atlanta needs to do this weekend is to get out of a slump before it gets too bad. Things are teetering on that edge after the Nats series. The Braves lost a really ridiculous game on Tuesday night to Washington. After having an 8 run lead at one point, the Braves managed to lose 12-13. It was a 3 run blast from the golden bat of Daniel Cooley Uggla that sealed Atlanta’s fate. It was as if God’s own hand was smacking certain stupid fans at Turner Field and Dan’s hit managed to get caught in that wave of righteous retribution. The ball soared into the stands and silenced the spirits of those many fans who had been booing Dan Uggla for two days straight. The former Braves second basemen did not deserve those boos. His time in Atlanta was a disappointment, yes. His contract still stands as the highest on the books, sure. But neither of those things are his fault.
Uggla struggled, but he never gave up in Atlanta. He kept up his workouts, obviously. He took extra BP and extra reps in the field nearly every day. Uggla tried his best. And for all the people who harp about wanting guys who, “Just play the game the right way,” Dan should be a hero. The man wanted to be the slugger he once had been. Why wouldn’t he want that? Uggla should also serve as proof that trying hard in sports does not equal success. And when a man tries as hard as he can and doesn’t succeed, he should not be booed or derided like Uggla was this week. If you want to argue against that then I’m going to invent a time machine and go get thrown out of every damn one of your little league games heckling your childish ass until you cry.
But maybe people in Atlanta weren’t booing Uggla because of his performance as a Brave. Maybe they were booing him because of the contract. That would be even more asinine, of course. The only way that would make sense is if those fans had bought Dan Uggla with their price of admission. And they probably think they did. Here’s the thing, though: fans, as a collective hive-mind of commerce, are certainly the reason baseball players have jobs, but they are not the ones who pay those players. Player salaries are investments made by filthy rich owners and their GMs who bet they can get that money back over the course of the contract. If you didn’t go to any games last year and didn’t buy a shirt, Dan Uggla’s wages would not have been garnished by $70.16 or whatever damn amount you paid for your cheap seats and knockoff jersey, you cheap booing bastard. I digress, though. Point is this: fans do not own players. Players are paid what the owner thinks he can make off of them, if that calculation turns out to be wrong over the course of the contract, then it just does. The player does not owe anybody anything else other than doing the job he is contracted to do. And Dan Uggla did that. He played baseball as well as he could. By nature of the sport, he failed a lot more than expected. And it was disappointing. But I can guarantee you that nobody in the world was more disappointed than Dan Uggla. And the assholes who booed him deserved that 3 run homer the other night. And you know what? So did Dan Uggla.
Anyways, despite what the robots think, the Braves are probably not going to win this series either. Get used to hearing that.