Wednesday, October 06, 2004


Preface: I picked the Astros in this series, but it doesn't make me any less of a Braves fan or not hope they will do well. Today's game, currently in the 4th inning as I write, is going in typical Braves postseason fashion.

What do I mean by typical? How about, a good start that should have gone better--the Braves had men in scoring position in both the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd innings (bases loaded) and what did they cash in? 1 stinking run. The Astros get a home run from BRAD AUSMUS (Season: 5 HR...he just hit 20% of his regular season total in the 3rd). Then, with two outs, consecutive hits by Beltran and Bagwell give the Astros a 2-1 lead, then Jaret Wright throws a nice, easy pitch to Lance Berkman and before you know it, it's 4-1.

What do I mean by typical...part 2? Going back to the runners in scoring position. I remember the 2000 NLDS with the Cardinals. The big story with that Game 1 was how Rick Ankiel threw 5 wild pitches in one inning. You know what I got out of that game? The Cardinals still killed the Braves in that game. It wasn't even close. Ankiel could have thrown about 10 more wild pitches and it would not have gotten the Braves closer. You know why? They can't cash in. Ever. In the storied run since 1991, I can recall, out of 122 postseason games, the Braves coming back once. It was in the 1992 NLCS versus the Pirates, the Francisco Cabrera single that scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth, including the chugging Sid Bream, in Game 7, that won the NLCS and sent the Braves to the World Series. Roger Clemens has walked FIVE BATTERS in 3 innings, and the Braves continue to be futile with guys who can get a hit.

Also, it seems like every team's defense becomes unconscious when they play the Braves. Whether it's Kirby Puckett stealing a HR from Terry Pendleton, Paul O'Neill catching a ball over his shoulder and off-balance, or today, Craig Biggio doing the same thing--it's absolutely maddening, guys. I have no idea how I haven't pulled every hair out of my head watching Braves postseason.

When they get down, they are down. When they get up, the other team pulls six runs out of their magic hat (1996 World Series, Game 4, Yankees, down 6-0, come back to win). You have no idea what this feels like and does to your psyche. The Braves have invented a curse of their own, and their hardships eclipse the Cubs and Red Sox for postseason frustration--not the number of World Series wins, which the Atlanta Braves can claim an entire one title over those two clubs in the past 86 years (two if you want to include the Milwaukee franchise), but for finding ways to lose. We can talk about Buckner or Aaron Boone, the goat or Babe Ruth, even Leon Durham, but I've got Kirby Puckett, Ed Sprague, Mark Wohlers and Jim Leyritz, Lonnie Smith and Chuck Knoblauch, and countless other guys who can claim to be heroes or goats in the face of this Atlanta team.

I think I believe what Mike believes in that a curse doesn't exist, but the fact that people who believe in a curse or believe in failure doom a franchise. In other words, when Moises Alou misses the foul ball that the infamous Steve Bartman interferes with, the Cubs shouldn't be down after a play like that--but suddenly their fans, and I think the team, got down, even though they were ahead in the game and in control of the series. Suddenly, a play like that infests doubt, instills confidence in the other team. Bad things happen.

By the way, Clemens just walked a sixth man. Then there was a single. Then there was nothing. 4 innings, still 4-1. 14 years, still watching, still disbelieving.


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