Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Tonight's 5-4 loss to the Marlins is business as usual for the Braves. Let me tell you how this one ended:

Bases loaded, 2 out, one of the Braves' better hitters at the plate. They knocked out Marlins closer Leo Nunez after 2 unearned runs got them to 5-4. The excitement was palpable. There seemed to be nothing that was going to stop the Braves from at least tying this game. In comes Brendan Donnelly to relieve Nunez. He throws a pitch...a gets behind the catcher and he can't find it.

But Matt Diaz at 3rd can't see it either and is halfway down the line...Marlins catcher Ronny Paulino finds it and fires to third...Matt Diaz out...ballgame over.

In games like these, you're hoping for some sort of escape from this situation. The escape never comes. Your team lost on one of the rarest of plays, not to mention rare for a game-ender.

The Braves found themselves in this situation after falling behind the Marlins 5-0, a deficit brought on in big part by an error by Chipper Jones, who allowed a double-play grounder to go into left field earlier in the game and it led to 3 runs. A pitcher the Braves had batted over .370 against decided this was the night he would strike out 16 batters.

The deficit the Braves find themselves in with the standings has been brought on by losing not only these types of games, but the games where they had huge leads that were erased, notably in the 3rd game of the year against the Phillies in which they had a 10-3 lead heading into the 7th inning and somehow lost 12-11. The bullpen, in general, has been a strength of the Braves but they've blown it in the most crucial situations. In 48 save situations between closer Rafael Soriano and part-time closer Mike Gonzalez, they blew 13. In other save situations, the other relievers combined for a 1-for-12 clip, bringing their success rate to 24 blown saves out of 60.

Now, I'm not the type to say my team should have won each and every one of those, because the percentages will be against you on that. But what about half of them? 12 more wins. Hell, they'd be NL East leaders with just that, forget about the Wild Card.

With the way the Braves lost the past two games and the Titans lost this past Sunday, I have seen all of the things that are supposed to be positives for a team fail miserably.

If anyone wants to know why I don't believe in the things that I have railed against in the past, this is why. I've seen my team have what is known as momentum and watched them fail constantly. I've seen the crowd get behind my team, cheering lustily, to be let down. I've seen my team play with emotion and lose. In the end, your team of guys must make the plays that move them forward, and nothing else matters, regardless of how the energy changes in the building or the two teams.

Labels: , ,


At 10/01/2009 02:19:00 PM, Blogger Mike said...

I just saw the highlights on Sportscenter and thought of you, with a tear in my eye.

But I still think there is something to momentum, or at least to emotion, it's just that it doesn't work out that way every time. And I think it's power is weakest in baseball, except for the negative energy coming from baseball fans believing in some "curse".

At 10/01/2009 02:20:00 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Oh, I especially like that they overcame a 16 strikeout performance to come so close. Seems fitting.

At 10/01/2009 03:38:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I've come to the conclusion that momentum is only what you make of it, and is at the very least a fleeting thing. Just because you have it is immaterial, and why I roll my eyes at the mention of it.

For instance, in the Titans/Jets game, the Titans scored 17 unanswered points, with the go-ahead touchdown in the 3rd quarter. They had the momentum. The Jets could not do anything on offense and punted. The Titans continued to have the momentum.

But, the Titans couldn't do anything with the ball on their next possession, despite having this force going for them. They punted. The Jets continued to get stymied on offense. Giants Stadium had become a huge group of disgruntled people, already resigned that this would be a loss. They had no life left in them other than generating sarcasm.

Mouton fumbles the ensuing punt, Jets fans come to life, Jets score, Jets have momentum. I will argue if the muffed punt happens at the 50 instead of the 20, the Jets do not score a touchdown and maybe only get a field goal.

I can see a team's defense going out, shocked at what's happened, upset, and unable to make plays for a short time, while an energized offense takes the field and takes advantage, thus the "momentum" certainly worked in the Jets favor by having the ball around the 20 when they began.

Unfortunately I can't grasp this concept as a truth, however, because I have seen it fail as much as succeed. It's a truism as much as "the team with the most rushing yards wins" or "the team that commits the least turnovers wins," or everybody's favorite and perhaps more apt, "Time of possession is a factor!" It requires context. Where is the momentum-changing play taking place on the field, at what time in the game does it take place, and how many points are you scoring when this wave of emotion is supposed to give your team a lift?

It still revolves around the plays you make, and I would argue that if momentum isn't going your way, then you need to realize this and take charge. It might have been befitting of the Titans to have waited until the commercial break after the turnover, and after they got back, call a time out.

Time outs are gold, but that's the game right there. You address to your team: This team wants to cash in our mistake...are you going to let them? Here's our plan, let's execute. If it doesn't work, then you shrug and say, "OK, let's get 'em back," and you don't do that by running Chris Johnson up the middle a couple of plays and then hoping Kerry Collins can complete a third-and-long to Alge Crumpler.


Post a Comment

<< Home