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]

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]

A really long night ends really badly for the Braves

  • 2:34 am Sunday, August 10th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Ol' Rochy's homer put the Nationals ahead, briefly. (John Bazemore/AP)

The game began at 10:51 p.m. Saturday, after even the West Coast games had commenced. It followed a rain delay of three hours and 41 minutes, which is about the time it takes the Red Sox and Yankees to play three innings. It ended at 2:29 a.m. Sunday, and it ended the way few games between these teams has ended of late.

For only the 10th time in 35 meetings since Aug. 22, 12012, the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves. This came at a galling moment for the home side, given that the Braves entered the series 4 1/2 games [More]

Pete Van Wieren: The Professor of baseball studies

  • 8:39 am Thursday, August 7th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
The smart one, the nice one and the snarky one. (Marlene Karas/AJC)

Think of them as the three uncles. Ernie Johnson was the essence of avuncular, the nice man who’d shake your hand and ask how you were doing and make you feel welcome. Skip Caray was the sarcastic uncle, the one who’d make fun of your shirt. Pete Van Wieren was the clever uncle, the one who’d show you the ropes of coin collecting or how to use that telescope you’d gotten for Christmas.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Pete, whom Ernie Sr. famously dubbed the Professor and who died Saturday of cancer at age 69, and I’ve realized that little [More]

The Braves do the right thing and cut Dan Uggla

  • 4:09 pm Friday, July 18th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Hat's all, folks. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The question posed in this space Sunday — “Can the Braves please just cut Dan Uggla already?” — has received its answer. They could and they did. For Braves fans, this will seem an answered prayer. But this was, in the end, less about Uggla than about the other 24 Braves and their manager.

Uggla had ceased to be a big-league player but was taking up space on a big-league roster. Ergo, he was hurting that big-league team. Fredi Gonzalez had one fewer option because — let’s be blunt — he couldn’t count on Uggla to do anything good. [More]

Can the Braves please just cut Dan Uggla already?

  • 12:56 pm Sunday, July 13th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
That classic Uggla swing. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Dan Uggla didn’t set out to become the worst player in the major leagues. It just happened. But now that it has happened, the one thing the worst player in the majors can’t be, provided he wants to keep his place in the majors, is a distraction. Poor Dan just flunked that test, too.

On the day before the All-Star break, a day the Atlanta Braves will try to win a game and ensure that they hold at least a share of first place in the National League East, they first had to deal with the 25th man on a 25-man [More]

The Braves really need La Stella to keep hitting

  • 9:34 am Thursday, May 29th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
It's important that La Stella doesn't drop the ball, as it were. (Elise Amendola/AP)

July 1985: Milt Thompson was summoned from the minor leagues and started the second game of a doubleheader and again the next day. He had five hits in those two games. After the latter, Atlanta Braves manager Eddie Haas was asked, in a jocular way, if it would be hard to keep a guy hitting .417 out of the everyday lineup.

Haas, who had no ear for humor or nuance and who wouldn’t manage the Braves much longer, gave this question serious thought before finally saying: “He’s probably not going to hit .417 all year.”

Tommy La Stella isn’t going to hit [More]

Are the Braves a playoff team? (Yes, I think)

  • 10:02 am Wednesday, May 28th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
That's life: Flyin' high in April, shot down in May. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Even after they lost Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to elbow surgery, I’ve operated under the belief that the Atlanta Braves would be a playoff team. I thought the absence of two starting pitchers would relegate them to wild-card status, but so far they’ve fooled me. (Not for the first time, and surely not for the last.) And now we’re on the far side of Memorial Day, which serves as the season’s first checkpoint, and we find them leading the National League East by 1 1/2 games.

Given the in-flux nature of their rotation and the out-of-it state of their [More]

Big Papi pops the Braves’ holiday balloon

  • 9:19 pm Monday, May 26th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Ervin Santana contemplates the slider that didn't slide. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Fredi Gonzalez tried to get Ervin Santana through five innings with a lead, which would have qualified the pitcher for a win. Trouble is, Santana’s team lost. Sometimes a manager, in trying to do a nice thing, winds up getting it wrong. This was such a time.

The Braves led 6-1 with two outs in the top of the fifth on Memorial Day. They hadn’t lost this season when scoring as many as six runs, not that they’ve scored six runs often. Santana wasn’t dominant but he was sharp enough to have yielded only one run, that spawned by a triple [More]

For the Braves, a good night at a needed time

  • 8:58 am Tuesday, May 20th, 2014 by Mark Bradley
Lyle Overbay, shutdown reliever. (John Bazemore/AP)

On the other hand, a night like Monday can go a ways toward making a frustrated team feel better about itself. The Atlanta Braves opened a four-game series at Turner Field against an opponent much like themselves — the first-place Milwaukee Brewers have pitched very well but hit less well — and the home team didn’t suffer from the side-by-side comparison. The Braves mustered 15 hits and nine runs and reduced the Brewers to deputizing Lyle Overbay, a 37-year-old first baseman, for his major-league pitching debut.

Further indignity: Overbay was Milwaukee’s most impressive pitcher of the night.

This isn’t to say [More]