Give the Braves a chance, OK?

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Like I said yesterday, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that the Braves did a good job in the Vazquez trade. There are many potential sliver linings to what some are unfairly calling the blackest of clouds, but Atlanta clearly didn’t get anything approaching equal value for a pitcher of Vazquez’s caliber. Melky Cabrera is clearly not going to make the difference in Atlanta. The Yankees won this trade, no doubt.

But while it’s one thing to call the Braves the loser of yesterday’s trade, it’s another thing altogether to use that trade as a blanket indictment of the Braves, their ownership and their desire to win baseball games.  That’s what Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus did in his column yesterday (sorry; most of it is registration-only), and he said so in no uncertain terms:

The Braves made themselves worse entirely so that Liberty Media
wouldn’t possibly have to use the red font in its spreadsheets. Vazquez makes
$11.5 million in 2010, Cabrera will make about $4 million, maybe a little less
(I’m guessing here, because of Cabrera’s arbitration eligibility). That’s $7.5
million in Liberty’s pockets, on top of the $7.5 million they saved on Soriano,
for $15 million saved in two trades that make the team worse by maybe four
games, maybe more, in 2010. Not that four wins is pretty much the difference in
making the playoffs and not in the NL just about every season, and not that
Liberty Media cares. They care that the Braves have positive cashflow, and
everything else is irrelevant.

I’ve been reading Joe Sheehan for years, and I gotta tell ya, I was pretty sure before yesterday that he knew that the rosters didn’t freeze and the season didn’t start on December 23rd. I was pretty sure he knew that when a team frees up salary in a trade, they have more than eight hours to spend it on other players before they can be accused of pocketing the money and pissing on the hopes of the fans. I was pretty sure that he knew that it was prudent for a team that has a surplus in one area to trade some of it away in order to get players (or money to acquire players) that addressed a deficit in another area.

Which, by the way, is what the Braves have shown every intention of doing. As Braves GM Frank Wren said yesterday, the team is going to use the $8 million or so that they have freed up as a result of dealing Vazquez to pursue a bat. I don’t know whose bat. And heck, maybe Wren will make a bad choice in the bat he gets. But the fact is that they had six starters and no first baseman or left fielder when we all woke up yesterday. If they
break camp with five starters and a first basemen and/or a left
fielder, they will have made the team better, even if the team they have is sub-optimal.

Look, I am just as frustrated at Liberty Media’s ownership of the Braves as the next guy. And I think Sheehan makes many excellent, general points about the drawbacks of corporate ownership in baseball in the course of his article.  But to say, mere hours after the Vazquez trade that the deal stands as a shining example of corporate neglect of a baseball team is outrageously premature.

Let’s see where the team
is in April. If the Braves have done nothing to improve their offense by then, great, I’ll buy what Sheehan is selling. Until then, give them a chance, OK?

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Athletics 10, Angels 0: Brett Anderson — the pitcher, not the lead singer for seminal 1990s Britpop band Suede — tossed shutout ball into the seventh while Stephen Piscotty brought The Power, homering and driving in five runs to lead an Oakland hit parade that beat the Angels Black and Blue. It wasn’t a Wild One, but I’m sure A’s fans Can’t Get Enough of their team winning.

Dodgers 5, Rockies 2: Yasiel Puig is having a heck of a month of September. I mean, yeah, his house has been robbed a couple of times lately, but it’s not distracting him on the field. He got the day off to start the day yesterday but then he came on to hit a three-run pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning to break a 2-2 tie and to give the Dodgers a three-game sweep of the Rockies. Puig is hitting .400 with seven homers and 14 RBI in the month of September. Matt Kemp homered too and Walker Buehler struck out 12. The Dodgers, meanwhile, boosted their lead in the NL West to two and a half games with nine games to play. Ten for the Rockies.

Indians 4, White Sox 1: The White Sox carried a 1-0 lead all the way to the ninth inning, backed by a strong performance from Dylan Covey (6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER). In the ninth, three different White Sox relievers each allowed a batter to reach to load the bases. The third one of them, Ian Hamilton, then faced Jason Kipnis. On his sixth pitch, Kipnis launched it over the fence in right for a walkoff grand slam that doubled a his 1,000th career hit:

Braves 7, Cardinals 3: Freddie Freeman hit a two-run homer and knocked in three on his 3-for-3 day as the Braves snapped their four-game losing streak. They now start a four-game series against the Phillies, over whom they hold a five and a half game lead in the NL East and hold a magic number of six. St. Louis falls and is now three behind Milwaukee for the top NL wild card but holds its one and a half game lead over the Rockies for the second spot thanks to the Rockies loss in Los Angeles.

Twins 8, Tigers 2: Stephen Gonsalves pitched six scoreless innings of one-hit ball as the Twins second pitcher of the day, striking out four and picking up his first major league win. Twins catcher Willians Astudillo doubled and singled in a run on his three-RBI day as the Twins sweep the Tigers.

Rays 9, Rangers 3: Tommy Pham homered twice to give the Rays a three-game sweep. Ryan Yarbrough picked up his 15th win on the year despite the fact that he has only started six games. The “opener” concept at work. I don’t know if that will become a new part of baseball going forward or if it’ll just be a fad. I don’t think anyone knows that yet. If it is he latter, people in 20-25 years are gonna be looking at baseball stats and wondering why “relievers” had such high win totals.

Phillies 4, Mets 0: Zach Eflin and five relievers combine for a six hit shutout, backed by homers from Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera. It’s now on to Atlanta, who Philly trails by five and a half. Seven of Philadelphia’s final 11 games are against the Braves, in fact, so this thing isn’t over.

Yankees 10, Red Sox 1: The AL East race isn’t over yet either. It will be — the Sox only need one more win and one more Yankees loss — but New York postponed that for yet another day, thanks to a big offensive day led by Luke Voit‘s two-homer performance. Miguel Andujar also homered and Aaron Hicks drove in three. David Price was knocked around for six runs — four earned — in five and a third. Luis Severino started shaky — his fist six pitches of the game were balls — but ended up allowing only one run in seven innings of work. New York remains two and a half games ahead of Oakland for the top AL Wild Card spot.

Orioles 2, Blue Jays 1: DJ Stewart hit his first major league home run, Jimmy Yacabonis and four relievers allowed only one run on four hits and the O’s avoid the sweep. I’m pretty sure Jimmy Yacabonis was in Season two of “The Wire,” by the way. He was either one of the dock workers or a henchman at the Greek diner, right? I think I’m right about that.

Pirates 2, Royals 1: Chris Archer allowed one run over seven innings, striking out eight, and Adam Frazier hit a tie-breaking solo homer in the fifth to give the Buccos a three-game sweep over Kansas City. The Royals have lost four straight.

Brewers 7, Reds 0: Jesus Aquilar and Manny Pina each hit three-run homers and Aquilar knocked in four in all as the Brewers knocked Matt Harvey around for seven runs in five and a third. Gio Gonzalez tossed six shutout innings tossed six shutout innings on his 33rd birthday. I think I had to file a summary judgment brief on my 33rd birthday, after which I probably changed diapers and fell asleep at 9:16PM. It was a hell of a Friday.

Mariners 9, Astros 0: Seven M’s pitchers combined on a five-hit shutout. Kyle Seager, Mitch Haniger and Guillermo Heredia each homered but Seattle had already built a 5-0 lead by the time those guys started going deep.

Padres 8, Giants 4: San Diego had a five-run second inning led by Wil Myers‘ two-run homer. Freddy Galvis also homered as the Padres avoided a three-game sweep.

Diamondbacks 9, Cubs 0: Robbie Ray tossed six shutout innings allowing only one hit and three Dbacks reliever combined for three no-hit innings to finish it off. The need not have been so dominant given that Cole Hamels was rocked for seven runs on nine hits in his six innings of work. Christian Walker, Chris Owings and Jeff Mathis each homered for Arizona. The Diamondbacks did this despite putting basically an all-backup lineup on the field with only two regular starters, Nick Ahmed and Ketel Marte, getting the start.