Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez watches in the late innings of the team's 4-3 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in a baseball game at Turner Field in Atlanta on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton) GWINNETT OUT MARIETTA OUTAP 2011 Atlanta Journal Constitution
The Atlanta Braves lost an 8 1/2-game lead this month – 10 1/2 games if you go back to late August. In squandering their lead to the St. Louis Cardinals, they became the first team to lose an 8-game lead for a playoff spot in September. And the team will sit out the playoffs, which begin Friday.
Simply put, the Braves choked.
Despite the epic collapse, the Braves organization should be proud of the job Fredi González did in his first season as the team's manager. The truth is – the Braves have no one to blame for not being in the playoffs but the players they so handsomely pay.
He cut his teeth in Florida for four seasons. He was well-liked, the players went out and played hard for him, and you never heard a peep or rumbles about any problems – with exception of repeat offender Hanley Ramírez.
Fast forward to 2011. The Philadelphia Phillies were handpicked to win the NL East, but the Braves were thought of as one of the teams that could challenge for the National League Wild Card.
Many questions surrounded the team coming into the season, though.
How would their pitching hold up? Would Chipper Jones stick around and remain healthy throughout the season? And how would Jason Heyward suffer a sophomore slump?
Given the talent on the roster he had to work with – a few veterans mixed in with a bevy of young guys in the rotation and the bullpen – the club held up until its players fell to injuries.
González was missing one of his starters, Jair Jurrjens, an All-Star this season who was nursing a right knee injury and had not pitched since his start in Washington on August 30. Also out was Tommy Hanson, who last started on August 6 against the Mets and left the game early.
His club's slide was affected by the play of Heyward, who dealt with injuries and hit .227 this season, 50 points below his rookie average last year. Add in All-Star catcher Brian McCann's injury, the struggles of Derek Lowe on the mound, and Dan Uggla's early season struggles, and it was too much for the team to overcome.
The Braves went 10-20 record in September, lost three straight series to the Mets, Marlins and Nationals, and lost nine games without a win to the Cardinals and Phillies.
It's no wonder the Braves fell like a line of dominoes.
So, yes, instead of the Cuban manager getting ready for a one-game playoff scenario in which he would try to out manage Tony LaRussa, he'll have the rest of the offseason to think – what if?
Sure, González may have stuck with pitchers too long, like he did with rookie Craig Kimbrel. And yes, perhaps leaving Jose Constanza off the lineup as the team went on a slump was a mistake.
But try to look past it. The fact is he had a team competing on the final day of a season when no one in baseball really picked them to be there at the end.
He will surely learn from what went down this September.
And like Cox, his mentor, he’ll likely recover and, perhaps, lead his team to a string of postseason births.
Adry Torres, who has covered MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA basketball games and related events, is a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @adrytorresnyc.
Adry Torres, who has covered MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA basketball games and related events, is a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. He can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @adrytorresnyc