Thursday, July 3, 2008

Brave New World

The Braves are going nowhere and they know it. Acceptance of such things can often bring welcome clarity, and Atlanta seems to be no exception as they are considering two moves -- the demotion of Jeff Francoeur and the shopping of Mark Teixeira -- which will help move the team in the right direction over the long term.

The Francoeur move may be a case of closing the barn door after the horses have already run off. He's been in the Majors for three years now, and has shown no signs of maturation whatsoever. Francoeur seems to be a hopeless case right now. He needed more time in the minors, but once he got off to that hot start in 2005 no one had the guts to send him down again. Since then he has been a team poster boy, a notorious man-about-town, and has shown neither the willingness nor the ability to figure out what the heck he's supposed to be doing in the little white box in front of the umpire. How he has remained so clueless when Chipper Jones -- a perfectly good role model -- has been hanging around the whole time is beyond me, but hopeless he has remained, and his utter lack of production, more than just about everything, is why the Braves are floundering.

Sending out feelers on Teixeira is also a good move. The guy turned down 8 years and $140M from the Rangers last year, and there's no way the Braves come close to offering that. Heck, there's no way the Braves even come close to offering the college town discount to that which, it should be noted, Teixeira has shown no indication of being interested in in the first place. The guy is walking, either to the Bronx, Queens, or to Baltimore, and that's pretty much that. Moreover, given the way the Braves got burned when the offered Maddux arbitration before the 2003 season (the sumbitch accepted it!) my suspicion is that they wouldn't offer it to Teixeira either, thus negating the "keep him around and take the draft picks when he walks" argument. You don't get those picks unless you offer arbitration. I'm pretty bad at valuing trades, so I have no sense of what Atlanta could expect to get for Teixeira, but it seems that something is better than nothing, and Teixeira's bat won't really be missed in the epic battle for third place which looms in the Braves' future.

The streak of division titles ended a couple of years ago, but Braves fans have still been sort of living in the afterglow. Sure, the team hasn't been as strong as it once was, but most of the faces have been the same. There has still been a sense that at any given time the Braves were only a winning streak away from glory. That's still technically true, but it's time for us to let go and face reality. Mark Teixeira is not going to be a part of the next good Braves team. Jeff Francoeur probably isn't going to ever be a part of a good team. Smoltz is probably done, and I'd be shocked if we saw Glavine beyond this year.

This is Kelly Johnson's and Brian McCann's and Yunel Escobar's and Jair Jurrjens' team now. It's around those guys -- with some mentoring from Chipper and Tim Hudson -- that the Braves need to build. Rather than wait until this winter, they should begin that process now.


Jason said...

The Yanks seem destined for that same "epic battle for third place" as your Braves are in, but it also appears that some (cough, HANK, cough) aren't ready to admit that.

I could see Hank going around Cashman, dealing the future for Teix (or Sabathia, as the case may be), only to have him leave after the season. Of course, Hank would have no idea how much better a hitter Giambi is when he's in the field as opposed to a pure DH.

Mark Smith said...

The Braves should trade Tex to get a good, young power-hitter and some pitching in return.

About keeping him. The Braves, if they keep him, should definitely offer him arbitration. He will definitely get a long-term deal (what Andruw didn't) worth several millions of dollars. Even if he accepts arbitration, the Braves can trade him then for more draft picks.

For Franceour, didn't he make a pretty good leap last season? I know I'm in the minority on this and a minor league demotion might do some good, but if The Braves are really out of this, won't he learn more in the majors than the minors? He's 24 and should be making strides, but everyone has had struggles in his career.

Ken Dynamo said...

it's about time the braves realize what pieces of garbage they are. great post craig. i look forward to more quality reportage of the braves demise and their wallowing in mediocre.

great stuff, really.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Ken -- I'm not calling anyone garbage, and really, I don't want to hear anyone around here doing that either. This is baseball, and we should not be in the business of assigning moral attributes to athletic performance. If that's what you're interested in there are plenty of places around the web that provide it.

Anonymous said...

There is almost no chance Texeria accepts arbitration so the Braves will certainly offer it to keep the picks.

Even if he does accept, that's not a bad position to be in. He's probably worth what the arbitrator will give him and you still be able to deal or go through the process again next year.

The Braves have to be sure they are getting value over and above the 2nd rounder and sandwich pick they'd get in compensation

ChuckO said...

As a Braves fan, I believe that when it comes to Francoeur, it's a matter of what you see is what you get. In the 2006 season, someone (Baseball Musings, if memory serves me) did a video breakdown on Francoeur's swing. The conclusion was that he started his swing significantly earlier than most players. Hence, he is more easily fooled by breaking pitches and off-speed stuff. The conclusion drawn was that, for the Braves, it was a matter of take what you've got versus sending him down for a couple of years to reconstruct his swing.

Here are a couple of telling anecdotes about Francoeur. This year, in spring training, he was taking batting practice, and was apparently trying to hit everything over the fence. Chipper made a few comments to him, then said as an aside, "Lose an Andruw, gain an Andruw." Also during spring training, Francoeur got a chance to play golf with Tiger Woods, along with Glavine and Smoltz. Smoltz was talking about that on a Braves spring training broadcast. When the announcer asked how they did, he said that they did okay, but that Francouer didn't do so well at first because he kept trying to out-drive Tiger.

On top of everything else, it seems that Francouer's going through a personal crisis at this point. He's always been something of a golden boy, and sports have apparently always come easily to him. Now he's hit the first big bump in that road.

Andy said...

Francoeur made some big improvments last year, and someone at Baseball Prospectus said he was a great candidate for a breakout year. So I don't blame the Braves for giving him 3 months to try and work through this. But I would send him down now, and let him try to work things out with less pressure.

Ken Dynamo said...

i know you weren't, craig, im just joking around, jeez. and what moral attributes am i assigning? im afraid i dont follow you, however, i will do my best to keep the negative comments to myself, no matter how badly i want to want to when discussing the braves. sincere apologies for my transgression.

Craig Calcaterra said...

It's cool, Ken, and I appreciate the promise of restraint. I just get a little miffed at the notion that a team is "garbage" or, as you put it on your blog "rotten bastards." Teams play well or play poorly. Management has a sound philosophy or they don't. If we start calling out teams as garbage or bastards or whatever simply because we don't care for them or think they're good, what's left to call the real pieces of garbage or rotten bastards (i.e. guys who beat their wives or whatever)?

Obviously you can write what you want on your blog, but I'd like to try to keep it as civil and reasoned as possible around here.

Daniel said...

Ken - I didn't read your comment as assaulting any of the Braves' moral character, but I can see how that could be the connotation from "pieces of garbage." I read it as you being a fan of a rival team and finally happy that the Braves are bad. But I can see how it could be interpreted differently.

I think Craig might still be a little sensitive about the bashing he took over his Bob Feller post. But his blog, his rules.

nickolai said...

Like others here, I wouldn't give up on Frenchy quite yet. His K per AB ratio this year is the lowest it's been in his career, and he's walking at just under the same rate as last year (which was his career high). The main problem this year is his terrible .236 BA, which is killing both his OBP and SLG.

But according to the Hardball Times, Frenchy's registering the lowest BA on balls-in-play in his career (.267 so far this year, vs. >.310 for 2005-07), even while smacking line drives at a career-high rate (21.1%). I'm not smart enough to tell you what all that means, but it seems like he's had some bad luck this year, with hard hit balls going right at fielders. Plus at 24, he still has time to develop his inner-Chipperness before hitting his baseball prime.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Daniel -- you may be right. I may be overly sensitive. Any blogger takes a lot of criticism (if he doesn't he isn't doing his job correctly) but the only two things I've sort of regretted since I started this blog were (a) calling another blogger a "hack" last year, which led to a stupid blog war; and (b) calling Bob Feller an "ass" last week.

Don't get me wrong -- in both instances I stand by the reason I was criticizing the target of my posts. The other blogger was saying simply ridiculous, unsupportable things, and I felt she needed to be called out for it. Bob Feller, likewise, was being, well, Bob Feller, and I think worthy of the criticism I leveled.

But I didn't need to call names. I didn't need to call the blogger a hack, and I didn't need to call Feller an ass. One a basic level, because it's kind of juvenille, but on a more practical level because no one paid any attention to what I had to say -- they simply fixated on my name calling, and that quickly because the topic of the debate, not the thing I was trying to talk about in the first place.

So no, Ken's "garbage" comment was not that big of a deal, and yes, I'm a bit sensitive to that stuff. I don't want to create an environment here where I'm playing Big Bloggy God and dictating what you all say. Hell, I've only deleted two comments in the history of this blog, and that was becuase on used an unacceptable racial epithet and the other an unacceptable sexual one. Most things are free game here, but I draw the line at the N word (unless it's used in the context of a historic quote, is reporting the words of others, or is otherwise being used as the part of a larger intellectual conversation) and the C word (an exception for which I can't really imagine).

So apologies Ken for overreacting, even if the general idea -- names for names' sake are often counterproductive -- is one I am going to trey amd hold to pretty strongly going forward.

Ken Dynamo said...

cool dude, i see your point. and my bad if i inadvertently put words in your mouth over at GMDB.

i'm sure most of the braves are fine upstanding citizens, its just that in my all consuming hatred for the team i tend to drift into hyperbole when expressing my opinions of them.

distinction duly noted. cheers.

shortino said...

craig, (braves journal reader here), I'm not sure there's much of a precedent for realizing that the Braves are out of it and thus start selling off commodities. They've been playing .500 ball for a few years now and have tried to stay in it. A weak NL East (as well as the recent successes of St. Louis and Colorado) seems to encourage it. I think they'd really have to drop lower in the standings before they'd consider being sellers. Personally, I think they should sell... just don't know if management thinks so. Maybe Wren will sell, we don't really have a good idea of what he will do (nor really of how much he can do... what *is* JS's role anyway?).

As for Frenchy... I guess I can see why they let him flounder right now. They don't really have anyone to put in RF and so they may as well let him try to work through it. I'd send him down or at least give him some time off.

Anonymous said...

The Francoeur move may be a case of closing the barn door after the horses have already run off.

It's more like after the horses have already run off, found mates, had kids, retired, and died of old age.

But yeah I agree it's long overdue for Frenchy to get sent down. Give him the Holliday treatment - all the way to single A.

Daniel said...

In other Frenchy news, Neyer has a blog post about his bad luck on BABIP this year. I agree with him, if the slump isn't in his head, you gotta keep him up and hope he breaks out of it.

Of course, that's easy for me to say; I'm not a Braves fan so I don't generally have to suffer his GIDP's and K's with men on base.

Craig Calcaterra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.