BISHER: Braves fall apart in September

Photo by John Millikan

Photo by John Millikan

Stand back just a moment or two, before you start piling on Fredi Gonzalez and pinning a tail on your chosen victim for the crash of the Braves. Let's look a little closer at some of the circumstances over which he had no control.

Let's start with the first of September, when the Braves checked in with a record of 81-55. Tim Hudson and even Derek Lowe had just pitched and won. In Lowe's case, that was significant. He never won again, and the year before some of our poetical laureates had labeled him our "September boy."

Back up to early August, Aug. 6 to be exact. Our Heroes lost to the New York Mets, 11-7, and the losing pitcher was Tommy Hanson. That was Hanson's last decision of the season. Move on down the calendar to Aug. 30, the day of which the Braves lost to the Nationals. Losing pitcher: Jair Jurrjens. That was his last decision of the year. He, too, never pitched again.

By the stage of his demise, Hanson had won 11 times, Jurrjens had won 13. Neither ever started, or won again. That's how it played out. Gonzalez lost two of his leading winners, and you take two of your top three starters out of the game, and what do you have left?

Well, let's see. you had Hudson, Brandon Beachy, the aforementioned Lowe, Mike Minor and Randal Delgado, Julio Teheran, Cristian Martinez, Arodys Vizcaino and assorted flavors. But how do you filled the cavernous gaps left by Hanson and Jurrjens? So who do you blame?

Not Fredi Gonzalez? Frank Wren? It's not like going down to the dealership and buying a replacement car.

How do you make a trade when you have nothing to trade with? He had made about every move he could make through the farm system. The pitching staff that looked too tough to fail until that part of the season and ran dry. There were times Fredi was starting strangers who had to be introduced around the clubhouse.

Fredi and his crew had survived on the bullpen for a good part of the season, but that gang was running on low and overmatched. So they moved into the closing series of the season and the Phillies were breezing.

Pitching, they used to say, is 75 percent of the game, though that's an old doggerel that dates back to Connie Mack.

That eliminated the Braves, and the sun was setting on a fading offense. There was no place to hide. But give a little thought to how it might have been if Fredi hadn't been playing with a gun two bullets shy.

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.