Mark Bradley blog 

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Who’s at fault for this September’s Braves flop?

  • 10:20 am Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Somebody got to celebrate at Turner Field. (David Tulis/AP)

I’m on record as saying I believe Fredi Gonzalez to be a good manager. He passes the test every successful manager must pass: His men play hard. (That’s the weird part about what’s happening now; the Atlanta Braves still, at least to these eyes, appear to be playing hard. Just not well, at least when it comes to hitting the ball.) If you ask me today if I’d be comfortable with Gonzalez managing this team the next five years, I’d say yes almost without hesitation.

Here, however, is where the “almost” arises: For the second time in four years, the Braves [More]

The .500 Braves are facing change. But how much?

  • 9:24 am Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"I find this ejection unacceptable." (Curtis Compton/AJC)

On the night of Sept. 15, the Atlanta Braves completed their downward journey to break-even. After 150 games, they’re where they were on April Fools’ Day. Then they were 1-1. They’re now 75-75. They’re no longer a winning team.

It was altogether fitting and proper that this inglorious moment came against the Washington Nationals, the one opponent they’d been able to handle, and Stephen Strasburg, the pitcher they’d come to own. Alas, these Braves have fallen so far that even those Old Reliables have been rendered moot. Strasburg pitched seven shutout innings. The Nats won 4-2 to pare their magic number [More]

Meanwhile, back at the Braves: Is all hope gone?

  • 8:19 am Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Kind of says it all, doesn't it? (Alex Brandon/AP)

Can’t you just see it? Fifteen days from now, the Atlanta Braves will have swept four games from Pittsburgh to clinch the second wild card and the champagne will be flowing in the home clubhouse at Turner Field — yes, teams celebrate being the runner-up of runners-up — and the soggy Braves will turn to the cameras and proclaim,” Nobody believed in us! Everybody counted us out! Everybody said this wasn’t possible!”

And that last part will be true. Look around today. Nobody believes in the Braves. Everybody has counted them out. Everybody is saying even a second wild card isn’t [More]

The plucky Braves try again to score an actual run

  • 12:00 pm Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Turner Field, 13 minutes before gametime. Pennant fever! (M. Bradley)

The Atlanta Braves had three hits Tuesday, one night after they’d managed none. They actually had 11 on Sunday, which enabled them to score one run. That run — a second-inning homer by Evan Gattis — remains the Braves’ only one in 37 innings.

They’ve been shut out three times in four games. Over that span, they’re 1-for-23 with runners in scoring position. (And the one hit — a Jason Heyward infield single Saturday night — didn’t result in a run.) Over those four games, the Braves are hitting .044 with RISP. Fun fact: The Braves were actually 0-for-6 with RISP [More]

In this season of no hitting, the Braves are no-hit

  • 6:02 pm Monday, September 1st, 2014 by Mark Bradley
The Braves managed the same number of hits against each of these four. (John Bazemore/AP)

Labor Day brought a logical culmination to the five months that had come before. The Atlanta Braves were no-hit by four Phillies pitchers, the first of whom — Cole Hamels, who can be great — wasn’t terribly great by his standards. He walked five and hit a batter in six innings, after which he retired, having thrown 108 pitches.

The Braves did nothing — not against Hamels, not against the three relievers who followed him. A season spent doing little on offense reached a nadir in its 138th game. No runs, no hits, no chance.

Ready for the really weird part? Until [More]

Labor Day dawns, and the Braves are buoyant

  • 11:28 am Monday, September 1st, 2014 by Mark Bradley
"I think we're better than Milwaukee. What about you?" (David Goldman/AP)

Four weeks ago, these flying fingers suggested that the arrival of baseball’s third holiday checkpoint would reveal the Atlanta Braves’ playoff chances as a forlorn hope. This grim forecast was based on two observations: First, the Braves’ schedule was about to toughen; second, that the Braves had been, not to sugarcoat things, stinking out Ye Olde Joint.

Which only goes to show: Baseball seasons are rarely quite what they seem. After an 0-8 West Coast swing, the Braves have gone 14-9. (That still puts them three games under .500 over the past 31, but never mind.) Our friends at Baseball [More]

Why B.J. Upton still would seem untradeable

  • 8:59 am Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Say this for B.J.: He does have nice glasses. (Hyosub Shin/AJC)

Bob Nightengale of USA Today has provided details regarding the Atlanta Braves’ attempt to trade B.J. Upton in July, an attempt first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports. Nightengale reports that the Braves were willing to take pitcher Edwin Jackson off the Cubs’ hands in “a straight swap of dead weight contracts.”

In other words: Not exactly a bonanza.

Jackson is owed $22 million over the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Upton is owed $46 million over the next three seasons. So: Big savings to the Braves, right? Per Nightengale, the Braves “would have had to throw in a ton of cash.” [More]

Good news: The toughest part is behind the Braves

  • 7:57 am Monday, August 25th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
B.J. Upton can't believe he struck out. Because he never strikes out. (Al Behrman/AP)

The worst of the schedule is behind them, and the Atlanta Braves are a game behind San Francisco for the second wild card. That’s the good news. Less cheery is the realization that, having fallen eight games behind Washington with 31 remaining, they could sweep the final six games against the Nats and still not nose ahead.

Bottom line: The sequence of 25 games that began July 29 and saw the Braves play 18 times against plus-.500 opposition — and Cincinnati, against which the run ended, only recently fell below .500 — didn’t break them. They lost the first eight of [More]

The Braves have arisen, mostly due to J-Up

  • 10:35 am Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Rounding third and heading for home. (Keith Srakocic/AP)

When the Atlanta Braves lost three of four to the Dodgers last week, I was very close to saying, “That’s all, folks.” (And I’m normally pretty cautious about such proclamations, having been wrong so often.) The Braves had gone 0-8 on the West Coast and had come home to lose four of seven. They’d gone 3-12 at a time when you don’t need to be going 3-12.

They were one game above .500. They were six games behind Washington in the National League East. They’d fallen to fourth in the wild-card pecking order. They had nothing going for them, and they [More]

The Braves remind us that they can play, too

  • 7:45 am Monday, August 18th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Justin Upto, Jason Heyward, Andrelton Simmons, Phil Gosselin

A homestand that might have been the Atlanta Braves’ last stand of 2014 became something rather different. For the first time a long while, they proved they can beat somebody good besides Washington. They reminded us that they can play, too.

They swept the Oakland A’s, who have baseball’s best record no more, after nearly being swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The homestand ended with the home team going 6-4, which mightn’t sound like much until we recall that, as of Friday morning, you’d surely have predicted 4-6 if not 3-7. They even beat two excellent pitchers — the A’s [More]