Since September 1, 2007, Michigan fans (myself included) have referred to Michigan losing to Appalachian State in the Big House as "The Horror", and I've debated all day on whether to use that term to refer to the Braves season-ending loss... as you can see by the title of this post, I've decided to use it.
There were 4 different types of factors that played into the death of the Braves Season...
The Braves Players Beating Themselves
- The Braves made 3 errors last night. There were only 3 times this season that the Braves committed 3 errors.
- All 3 errors led directly to St. Louis runs.
- Chipper Jones' throwing error in the 4th inning was likely the single biggest play of the game, and Andrelton Simmons (an elite defensive shortstop in the entire MLB) couldn't execute a simple field and throw later in the game.
- Dan Uggla, as bad as he is normally, let the Simmons play matter even more with his hilariously poor effort on David Freese's groundball to start the 7th.
- Andrelton Simmons running inside the baseline on his bunt in the bottom of the 4th inning, causing an interference call, and taking away even the one run that would've scored had the bunt actually worked.
Managerial Incompetence from Fredi Gonzalez
- The most egregious play of the night for Gonzalez surrounded the Simmons' bunt in the 4th inning. Everyone assumed it was a rookie player doing an incredibly stupid thing when he bunted with runners on 1st and 3rd, 1 out, and the pitcher on deck. The play ended with the interference call, no runs in the inning, and the world killing Simmons on Twitter.... Until Fredi admitted in an interview that he called a safety squeeze. That is an impossibly bad decision with the pitcher on deck, and even in Simmons ran in the baseline, the Braves inning caps at 1 run, as you've just given an out away and put the pitcher in the batter's box. #Frediot.
- Throughout the game, Fredi managed it as though it was a regular season game, refusing to use his deep pitching depth, and letting Medlen, who admittedly was underwhelming by his recent standards, to continue to stay on the mound.
- Other instances of his pitching mishandling include: Letting O'Flaherty face three consecutive right-handed, middle-of-the-order bats. Inserting Chad Durbin (and his 7.2 strikeouts per nine) in an obvious "we need a strikeout" spot that led to the aforementioned Simmons error. Pinch-hitting his 7th or 8th best bench bat as the first pinch-hitter when he used Constanza (his best pinch runner, also) in the 7th. I realize that this play "worked", but the move itself is indefensible regardless of result.
- Rant over.
Major League Baseball
- I have only one point here. How in the world does it make sense to take a 162-game "marathon, not a sprint" season and reduce it to a one-game playoff? In addition to that, how in the world does it make sense that a team could be 6 full games better over 162 games and suddenly be forced into a 1-game playoff with that team over night? Thank you MLB. Oh, and thank you for not even really listening to the appeal below...
The Infield Fly
- First of all, I am not arguing, even a little, that the Braves definitely win this game if the Infield Fly Catastrophe didn't happen. Let me just say that out loud now.
- Secondly, even 24 hours later, I still feel that this was the worst officiating decision in a playoff game that I've ever witnessed. The call was a) flat-out wrong, and b) incredibly late. There is zero defense for a left-field umpire to make this call anyway, and I could yell and scream about this for days.
- There is no evidence that the Braves would have cashed in the bases-loaded, 1-out, and Brian McCann coming to the plate situation, but the stadium was rocking, Mitchell Boggs hadn't pitched well to that point, and I feel pretty darn good about McCann (even injured) in that spot.
- The worst part of it all? The faux protest that MLB denied in about an hour because this was a judgment call. Yes, the Infield Fly Rule is inherently a judgment call, but there was one specific issue with this. It explicitly states that this has to be called "immediately" and Sam Holbrook wasn't raising his hand until Pete Kozma was fleeing from the ball.
This one hurt.
And the biggest reason for despair, frankly, is that Chipper Jones deserved a better send-off. If the Braves lose a normal 6-3 game with no ridiculousness (as outlined above), the fans are able to send Chipper off with a standing O and a curtain call or two. Instead? We were treated to bottles on the field, the Cardinals sprinting off with the final out, and nothing special for the greatest "Atlanta" Brave of all-time. That's a shame. I'm sure that in the coming days, people will forget how unfortunate of a night that this was for Chipper, between his 1-for-5 at the plate and his costly error, and focus on the great swan song season that it was for Larry.
But I'll remember this particular game with a stomach punch feeling. At least for a while.