As I settle in to my couch to watch the Braves play the first of a three game series in Chicago against the Cubs, it only takes two innings to remind me that the '08 version of the Bravo's just can't catch a break. The only thing that has not gone wrong this year for the Braves is Chipper Jones (knock on wood). So, with nearly 100 games left in the season and sitting at 6.5 games behind the Phillies in the NL East, I find comfort in the fact that things can only get better.
A prime example lies in the beginning of tonights game in the Windy City. After the Braves took a 3-0 lead in the first thanks to an unexpected three run shot from Greg Norton, Glavine promptly gave up the lead by allowing two runs in both the second and third innings. While it is true that Glavine would have a much better record had he had some more run support, it is also true that when he does get run support, it just happens to be on a night when he doesn't have his best stuff. In reverse, when the Braves get a great performance from their starting rotation the offense seemingly disappears.
The most frustrating moment came Friday night when Kelley Johnson dropped what would have been the final out of a big win in the first of a three game set against the Phillies. I believe that the let down from that one play carried over into the final two games of the series.
Going into the season you couldn't help but get excited about the possible rotation of John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, Glavine, Mike Hampton, and Jair Jurrjens. Though Jurrjens has been a pleasant surprise, things couldn't have gone much worse for Bobby Cox. Smoltz fell to injury and may never play again. Glavine has struggled and has actually looked down right terrible in some games. Not to mention that he made the first trip to the DL in his career. Hampton got hurt while warming up for his first start since 2005 and has yet to throw a pitch this season. Even Hudson has suffered two bad luck losses.
Offensively, the story is just as sad. Mark Teixeira has been just a shadow of what we saw when he arrived last season. Even before his injury Matt Diaz suddenly stopped hitting the ball after such a great 2007. Mark Kotsay was just becoming maybe the second best hitter on the team when he went down with a bad back. And then there's Jeff Francoeur. Frenchy coming to the plate with runners in scoring position is the definition of a bad break.
Without getting into a discussion about the 'pen, I will just say that if it could go wrong, it has this year for the Braves. The thing is that in baseball you make your own breaks and the Braves have made plenty, it's just that they have all been bad breaks. As bad as things have been, if the Braves can turn half of those bad breaks into good breaks before the All-Star break, a division title is not out of the question. In the past you could count on John Schuerholz to make a smart move that would put the team back into first place. I just hope Frank Wren can work the same magic.