Atlanta Braves' September: The Fight for the Wild Card

Joshua TaylorContributor IJanuary 25, 2011

ATLANTA - OCTOBER 11:  A general view of Turner Field during the game between the Atlanta Braves cheer and the San Francisco Giants during Game Four of the NLDS of the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Turner Field on October 11, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

2010 was an absolutely exciting year to be a Braves fan! The Braves may not have made it to the big dance but we got a taste of the playoffs and we did it all in very odd fashion will so many walk-off wins. But with that aside, let’s think about the last month of the season, September. It was a very strange month for the Bravos, the month that was an absolute fight for the National League Wild Card. Let's go back & take a look at what happened in the one crucial month when a ball club can make or break their chances of getting into the postseason.

The Braves September was one of many ups & downs, a month that had many fans screaming profanities one night then praising their heroes because of a walk off the next night. But in my opinion September was a month filled with weak play and bad managerial decisions. Before you start screaming at your computer and claiming that I hate the Braves and Bobby Cox, lets look at some factors.

The first of which is how Bobby managed the playing time of Troy Glaus; now I know that after May, Glaus was nowhere to be seen on the base paths. He was hitting either just over or just under the Mendoza line after that amazing month of May and we had to make a trade for Derrek Lee to try and see if we could make that final push to the playoffs. My problem was that Glaus had 12 at-bats in the final month of the season, Glaus wasn’t even one of our top two pinch-hitting options.

Bobby pretty much made Glaus a rotting bench contract that was absolutely worthless; I know that Glaus has maybe 2 years left in the league but he was definitely worth more than 12 ABs. A veteran player with a World Series ring who carried the team throughout the month of May, hitting an astounding .330/.408/.534, can still have upside in the final stretch. 

The second, much more major, factor in the Braves’ final month was how we played the non-competition teams, also known as the games we should have easily won. The Bravos dropped 2 of 3 to the Pirates in Pittsburgh at the end of a 6 game road trip right in the beginning of September. Teams get in droughts and lose to teams they shouldn't all the time, but guess how many runs our Braves scored in those two loses: 1. Yes, one run to the (57-105) Pirates; they lost to Brian Burres, a pitcher who ended the season with an outstanding 4.99 ERA and James McDonald who ended his season nicely as well with a 4.02 ERA and managed to throw 7 scoreless innings against us.

All sarcasm aside, those two games were pretty ghastly and the Braves managed to follow in stride a week later dropping 2 of 3 to the Nationals in similar fashion. The Braves managed to squeak into the playoffs but the first two losses to the Pirates at the very beginning of September can easily take the wind out of the Braves sails heading down the home stretch.

Now I know that you may be thinking that I’m stretching a bit when I say that these games were examples of weak play and summed up their September, but it’s an obvious sign that the Braves were not playing up to the standards of a playoff contender down the stretch. In September alone the Braves dropped 8 games to teams that finished with a record below .500.

Putting that into perspective, if the Braves had won those 8 games they would have finished with a record of 99-71 putting them 2 games in front of the Phillies and would’ve left them holding a National League East pennant. They failed to stand out and show the nation that they’re a playoff contender, and instead they chose to be one of the worst National League teams in September with just 17 home runs (2nd to last) and 100 RBI.

Do I think that this team could have played better, obviously I do, but I think that after a September where they posted a 13-14 record it was clear that this team was not made for the playoffs. But now that 2010 is behind us, I look forward to 2011 with a lineup that is ready to produce like a playoff contender.