So another Braves season ends too soon. Yes, this is getting old; yes, this sucks; yes, something is just...wrong about the way Atlanta can't get it together to win another title. That said, let's just cap off the season with a few points:
--The failure in this series was the bullpen's fault, plain and simple. Cox couldn't have managed any better; the Braves put together clutch hits (for the most part--though leaving 16 men on base today kind of sucked); the starting pitching at least kept them close for every series. But, Jesus--to give up a grand slam AND a game-tying, bottom-of-the-ninth-and-two-outs home run in back-to-back innings? Come on. No excuse at all for that kind of incompetence. And the Braves need to understand that losing this badly, in this foolish a fashion, just makes it that much harder for them to get credibility back in the eyes of many of their fans, who assume they're nothing but a bunch of choking losers.
--I'm not one of those fans, by the way. There are a million ways to lose a baseball game (and Atlanta seems hellbent on figuring out every way possible in October)--but do you think for a second that the fans in Philly and Cleveland (choked their way out of the postseason in the season's final weekend), Baltimore (barely sniffed the playoffs once in the last decade), Wrigley Field (thought Prior-Wood-Maddux was going to lock up titles from 2004-2010), or Pittsburgh (haven't even cracked .500 in a SEASON since before CLINTON was elected!) feel the least bit sorry for Atlanta? Nope. Gotta be in it to win it--and I'll take a hundred division flags if I know going into every single season that my team's going to be playing in October.
--Also, the five-game division series is just bullshit. There's no logical or logistical rationale behind it. In football, the first round of the playoffs isn't a three-quarter game. Basketball is seven-game series from the moment the regular season ends. Give each series time to breathe. I'm certain that plenty of fans in Boston and (God willing) New York feel the same way now.
--Houston isn't a great ballclub, but they're an opportunistic one, and a freakin' lucky one at that. I played a tennis match yesterday where the other guys weren't any more talented than we were; they just happened to get all the lucky bounces--I'd smash an overhead; they'd cower behind their racket; the ball would ding off their frame and dribble onto my side of the net for their point. They kept getting away with these lucky shots over and over until we'd dug ourselves into a hole we couldn't climb out of. Same thing happened too many times with Atlanta; they have to accept that teams are going to put runs on the board, but get a solid enough bullpen that teams don't score in clown-car-loads.
--And by the way, that stupid "Crawford Box" left field fence in Houston is so close that a well-placed bunt could leave the ballpark. Not an excuse, but still--anywhere south of Fenway, and Berkman's grand slam is a harmless fly ball.
--Finally, let's all remember that this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Atlanta. No way does any other manager in baseball get 18 rookies to put his team in the postseason. So get off Cox's butt, and if Schuerholz can land a couple solid middle relievers, lay off him too. We need to hang onto Francoeur, Langerhans, and McCann for dear life, send Devine and Farnsworth to Mexico for the winter to mow down cheap competition and get their heads back on straight, and then come back in March ready to--yep, once again--make the run for the postseason.
Now, who's ready for some Hawks basketball?