The “Other” Collapse

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While the trail of controversy, drastic changes and clubhouse disharmony is surrounding the Red Sox, there was another embarrassing collapse in Atlanta with the Braves.

Shortly after they completed the disaster by losing in extra innings to the Phillies, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said that his entire coaching staff would return intact.

This was about 12 hours later.

It was absurd to suggest that a team like the Red Sox doesn’t have the right to consider a managerial change from Terry Francona following the way they came apart.

So it was similar that it was patently ridiculous for Gonzalez to say the Braves wouldn’t make any changes.

This point was hammered home on Friday when the Braves fired hitting coach Larry Parrish.

Amid all the fingers pointed at the injuries to the Braves starting rotation and the overwork of the bullpen, the big problem was the offense. Parrish advocated an aggressive approach and it cost the Braves dearly in their on-base percentage, runs scored and walks. Even hitters who have historically walked a lot, Dan Uggla and Chipper Jones, didn’t in 2011.

Holding Parrish responsible for that is right and fair and Gonzalez had better be careful if they get off to a slow start next year because GM Frank Wren is not going to sit by quietly and watch his team—loaded with talent and in a nightmarish division—get off to an 18-25 start and not make a move.

Gonzalez was publicly castrated when Parrish was fired and it was a message.

The other stories surrounding the Braves involved Derek Lowe and Jason Heyward not being guaranteed to maintain their current positions in 2012.

Lowe’s 9-17 record and ERA over 5 speak for themselves; but he still only allowed 14 homers in 187 innings; he’s in the last year of his contract at $15 million and if they’re sufficiently motivated to move him for another expensive contract, someone will take him. 200 innings are 200 innings.

With Heyward, the Braves clearly didn’t learn the lessons of overhyping a young player after what happened with Jeff Francoeur. Heyward’s sudden fall is mirroring that of Francouer. Francoeur was called “The Natural”; Heyward was compared to Willie Mays and Willie McCovey and both found themselves to be targets when they didn’t achieve those heights.

Now that Heyward’s been booed, criticized, ripped and benched for not living up to that idiotic comparison, Wren—who had a major rift with Francouer—is threatening Heyward’s job.

There are even stories being circulated that the Braves might be better off trading Heyward.

That’s not going to happen, but if Heyward flames out in Atlanta the way Francouer did, the Braves have no one to blame but themselves and need to seriously reconsider the way they treat their would-be star position players.

Once is a mistake; twice is a trend and they’re well on the way of having the same thing happen again.


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