So it all began in 1876, and all these years later — as this is written — the present-day Braves are still trying to break the deadlock they’re in: 9,983 games won, 9,983 lost.
It all began with Harry Wright in Boston, meandered through Milwaukee, and the ball is now in Fredi Gonzalez’s court in Atlanta. (Doesn’t seem all that long ago, does it?)
I doubt that I’m alone on this, but to me, this has been a weird season. The Braves are surviving on a starvation offense and stingy pitching. They’ve won games on two hits. They’ve won in 10 innings with seven pitchers. Their least reliable pitcher is the highest paid. And in spite of an offense producing on a .243 batting average, they’re in second place with an expensive second baseman batting .180.
Not only that, but their recent winning streak was achieved with a busload of front-liners still hanging out at the spring training camp. I think that’s fair to say: Jason Heyward, right field; Nate McClouth, center field, Brandon Beachy, a starting pitcher. The starting lineup lately looks as though it might have been filled out by Dave Brundage, the Gwinnett manager.
You might recall that this is the dregs of a team that staggered home last fall, and almost made the National League Championship Series. The transition from Bobby Cox to Gonzalez has been better than smooth. Fredi hasn’t been tossed out of a game yet, unless it was one I missed. He is a low-key manager. Doesn’t take him long to change pitchers. He takes a long, athletic stride out of the dugout, asks for the ball with a smile, hands it to the reliever and moves on. There’s something refreshing in his manner.
Pitching has been carrying the load, beginning with Jair Jurrjens, who has become the ace. Jurrjens represents Frank Wren’s glowing moment in the office of general manager, and it took guts. Trading a .300-hitting shortstop for a Curacao kid who had been sloshing around for five years in the Detroit farm system. It’s a pleasure to watch him — and Tommy Hanson — work.
Which leads me to Brian McCann, the keystone of these Braves. He takes a pounding, at bat and behind the plate, but keeps on coming. If I were laying the foundation for a major league club, McCann would be the cornerstone. In my eyes, he’s a candidate for the most valuable player in the league — maybe both leagues.
Other that that, I have little more to say today.
Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.